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Kabul terror attacks throw a curveball into congressional attempts to limit Biden's war powers

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 8/31/2021 Christian Datoc
a man wearing a suit and tie: President Joe Biden listens during a virtual meeting with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Governors and mayors of areas impacted by Hurricane Ida, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) © Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden listens during a virtual meeting with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Governors and mayors of areas impacted by Hurricane Ida, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden's new mission to hold the planners of the deadly terror attacks at the Kabul airport accountable throws an unexpected wrinkle in congressional attempts to limit the president's war powers — something Biden himself has voiced support for in the past.

Lawmakers of both parties have sought for years to repeal the 1991, 2001, and 2002 authorizations for use of military force, which were interpreted as granting Biden's three predecessors — former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush — wide-ranging authority to pursue military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere without additional congressional approval. Past administrations cited the AUMFs as granting the executive branch legal authority to carry out a series of counter-terror drone strikes on targets in the Middle East, specifically the Obama- and Trump-era wars against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly known as the terror group ISIS.

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Trump's drone assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the former commander of Iran's Quds Force, in January 2020 reignited debate about repealing the AUMFs and returning supervision over the president's war powers to the legislative branch. That debate further escalated when Biden launched airstrikes against militias backed by Iran in June of this past year, finally prompting the House to repeal the Iraq AUMFs in July. Though the Senate has yet to take the measure to the floor for a vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to do so by the end of the year.

Both Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine and California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, two strong advocates for AUMF repeal, still stand by Congress's attempts to limit Biden's ability to wage war. However, they now say repeal legislation should include specific language allowing the president to target ISIS-K.

"Administrations have cited the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), not the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, when taking action against ISIS," a Kaine spokesperson said to the Washington Examiner in a statement. "The repeal legislation currently being considered by the Senate concerns only the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs and therefore would have no impact on ongoing U.S. operations to counter ISIS. Additionally, while Senator Kaine does support rewriting the 2001 AUMF to narrow its scope, the Senator has always indicated that a redrafted version should specifically include ISIS."

Khanna similarly maintained to the Washington Examiner that "we should repeal the overbroad authorizations for endless war" but also voiced his support for passing "a narrow, time-restricted authorization for the president to prevent further violence and pursue justice with targeted strikes against ISIS-K leaders and planners."

A number of Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have called for caveats in repeal legislation that would still allow the executive branch to move against certain threats in the Middle East without congressional authority.

Cruz told Politico he plans to introduce an amendment to the Senate measure that would "make clear that there is ample authority to protect our servicemen and women and to protect American lives from Iranian military aggression."

Rubio, who opposes AUMF repeal, suggested in July that Biden should be able "to go after terrorists or other armed groups who seek to harm the United States or our personnel deployed anywhere in the world, on an ongoing basis and to do whatever is necessary to degrade their capability to strike us — and if possible, to wipe them out of existence."

The Biden administration has new reason to want to appear strong on national security after a messy exit from Afghanistan and the attacks on Kabul.

Senior Republican aides now question whether the Kabul attacks and Biden's stated pledge to root out ISIS-K and hold the leaders and planners of the Kabul attacks accountable for their crimes would prevent Schumer from meeting his own end-of-year timeline on AUMF repeal.

One aide particularly cited Democrats' attempts to pass Biden's infrastructure packages — the larger, more controversial of the two must still receive a final vote in the Senate — as clogging up the schedule.

"Schumer's going to have enough trouble getting votes from [West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe] Manchin and [Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema on budget reconciliation that, given Biden's newfound passion for hunting down ISIS, I can easily see this one slipping into the next year," the aide said.

When first addressing the Kabul attacks Thursday, Biden vowed to provide the military and intelligence communities any necessary resources to hunt down ISIS-K leaders in retaliation for killing 13 U.S. service members and nearly 200 Afghan nationals.

"To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," he said in a national address responding to the attacks. "I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command."

The Biden administration carried out strikes against ISIS leaders over the weekend, killing two targets and injuring a third believed to be involved in the planning of the Kabul airport attacks. The administration vowed it would not be the final action taken in retaliation for the attacks.

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The White House did not respond to the Washington Examiner's inquiries on the subject.

 

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Tags: News, Joe Biden, Afghanistan, ISIS, White House, Ro Khanna, Tim Kaine, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Congress, Foreign Policy, National Security

Original Author: Christian Datoc

Original Location: Kabul terror attacks throw a curveball into congressional attempts to limit Biden's war powers

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