Afghanistan’s policies jeopardize efforts to recall the 2001 armed forces

“I am completely in favor of allowing the administration to use force when necessary. But it has to be approved by Congress, and today they really do not have an authorization that is relevant to what they are doing, “said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), A senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and longtime advocate for repealing 2001 approval.

Biden’s plans for a new phase of the war on terror, lawmakers on both sides say, only underscore the importance of revising the 2001 use of military force – or AUMF – that gave then-President George W. Bush broad power to attack . those who orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet it may be months before they can agree with the White House on a new framework, especially as the Senate and House conduct extensive investigations into what went wrong in Afghanistan.

The collapse of Afghanistan, said Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), “Underscores the importance of ensuring that we maintain the authorities established in the 2001 AUMF.”

“I think there will be a real short-term focus on ensuring that Congress regains control of the time and manner in which we wage war, but I think people will be worried about re-entering the AUMF. in 2001, “predicted. Young, the GOP’s leading voice on the AUMF reform. “There must be legal authorities like those under the AUMF from 2001 that allow this and future administrations to wage a war on terror.”

Late. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Who has led AUMF negotiations with the White House, said in an interview that “the change – the absence of combat operations in Afghanistan – it is a new circumstance and a new fact, so we have to to consider the current reality of the audit. ”

Efforts on the 2001 AUMF do not need to be completely halted, Kaine said, because Congress is first looking at the best way forward to lift the authorizations for troops in Iraq from 1991 and 2002, measures already approved by Parliament.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) has committed to a floor vote on the repeal measures likely to take place next month, according to senators and aides familiar with the timeline. With at least 10 Republicans already publicly in favor of repealing the two AUMFs for Iraq, the Senate is likely to pass them.

But even Republicans who are committed to reducing the president’s military power, such as Young, are not eager to kick-start the AUMF negotiations in 2001.

Some believe that recent events in Afghanistan – where the Biden administration was forced to fight to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies amid the Taliban’s rapid takeover – have strengthened the hand of Congress and will make it harder for the Biden administration to get what it wants. it wants in the AUMF negotiations.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee, said he has been working on a replacement for the AUMF with panel chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.). He hopes to reach an agreement after the committee heard from military and intelligence officials about the current landscape of terrorist threats.

The priority for Republicans in these negotiations, according to McCaul, is to find a new country in the region to house counter-terrorism operations in a way that maintains intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for Afghanistan. It would give the United States “eyes and ears” in the country for a “real-time response” to terrorist threats, McCaul said.

Officials and congressional aides involved in the negotiations said the goal is to focus the revised 2001 AUMF on specific terrorist groups rather than specific countries. It could give Biden and future presidents the authority to go after extremist groups that metastasize to other countries in the region, as has happened with al Qaeda, ISIS and various Iran-backed militia groups that have targeted US troops and interests.

Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee, said that “a reformulated version of AUMF from 2001 should specifically include ISIS” and ISIS-K, the terrorist group’s Afghanistan-based subsidiary. ISIS-K orchestrated last month’s suicide bombings at Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. soldiers.

Yet as members of both parties pressure the Biden administration to develop a counter-terrorism plan for the region, they feel that their influence on the White House is shrinking, as top military officials have already committed to using existing authorities – such as AUMF from 2001 – to continue to pursue terrorists in Afghanistan.

It is despite the reality that the legal basis for presidential wartime authorities has mostly been on autopilot for the past 20 years. For example, Congress has never formally voted to approve military force against ISIS, but presidents from both sides have used the 2001 AUMF to justify operations targeting the terrorist group, even though it did not exist in 2001.

“Part of the problem was that Congress never took a new vote on Afghanistan after 2001. This can only be resolved if we overtake the powers of the armed forces,” said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Murphy, chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Relations for the Middle East, recently introduced a bill that would in part force the modernization of all existing AUMFs. Biden’s support for the repeal of outdated AUMFs has given Democrats hope that the president, who once chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will work with lawmakers to revise the 2001 AUMF after the 1991 and 2002 authorizations were revoked.

Another reason that can be messed up, however, is the Taliban – which now controls Afghanistan. The United States may need to coordinate its fight against terrorism with the Taliban, given the mutual interest in eliminating the ISIS threat, which would disrupt the debate on repealing a third AUMF even more seriously.

The Biden administration has said it is too early to decide whether to have diplomatic relations with the Taliban, which could require the United States to formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. But General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was “possible” that the United States would coordinate with the Taliban to attack ISIS-K and suggested that such cooperation would depend on the militant group’s behavior going forward.

“This is a ruthless group from the past,” Milley said of the Taliban. “Whether they change or not remains to be seen.”

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