Trump administration opposes curtailing war powers

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump's top military and diplomatic aides told US lawmakers Monday that the administration was not seeking new authority for conducting military operations in the world's hot spots.

Congress first passed an authorization to use military force, or AUMF, on September 14, 2001 -- three days after the devastating attacks on New York and Washington by Al-Qaeda hijackers.

Since then, presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump have relied on the order's authority, along with a subsequent AUMF in 2002, as they launched operations against armed Islamist groups in far-flung battle zones around the world.

Several Democrats have warned that the 15-year-old authorities are licenses for endless US military engagement.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the existing AUMF is sufficient justification for currently battling extremist groups and their "mutating threat."

"Though a statement of continued congressional support would be welcome, a new AUMF is not legally required to address the continuing threats posed by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS," Mattis said in his opening statement.

"Repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs would only cause unnecessary policy and legal uncertainty, which could lead to additional litigation and public doubt," Mattis added.

Tillerson said the 2001 AUMF "remains a cornerstone" for ongoing US military operations "and continues to provide legal authority relied upon to defeat this threat."

But he added that while the Trump administration was not seeking a new AUMF, it offered some suggestions in the event Congress went ahead anyway.

No AUMF should be repealed without a new AUMF in place, as such a gap could trigger the release of terror suspects held in the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay. And they should not be constrained by time or geography.

"Legislation which would arbitrarily terminate the authorization to use force... could unintentionally embolden our enemies with the goal of outlasting us," Tillerson said.

Committee chairman Senator Bob Corker said lawmakers were split on the path forward, unable to "bridge the gap" between those who want to craft a new, limited AUMF, and those who believe that "constraining the commander in chief in wartime is unwise."

Senator Ben Cardin, the committee's top Democrat, warned that there was increasing opposition to an endless military authorization that essentially greenlights a "global endless shadow war."