McConnell: Repealing 2002 AUMF Won’t Solve Terrorist Threat
‘For years, U.S. forces have been carefully handing more of the primary responsibility for counterterrorism to brave local partners… But that’s only worked because our partners have been able to trust that the U.S. military is still authorized to back them up. And today, House Democrats intend to rip out one of the key authorities underpinning that trust.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding national security:
“The House of Representatives will vote today on a bill from Representative Barbara Lee to repeal one of the key authorities behind nearly two decades of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism: the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
“House Democrats claim this vote is an urgent act of Congressional oversight, and the Democratic Leader has indicated that the Senate will take it up with similar zeal.
“The right way to address ongoing terrorist threats is a debate worth having.
“I would have welcomed that debate before the Biden Administration began its hasty retreat from Afghanistan without a plan to sustain counterterror missions or support our friends.
“And it’s one we should have before we vote to repeal these authorities. Reality is more complicated, more dangerous, and less politically convenient than its supporters believe.
“The fact of the matter is the legal and practical application of the 2002 AUMF extends far beyond the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime. And tossing it aside without answering real questions about our ongoing efforts in the region is reckless.
“So let’s clear up some facts:
“The 2002 AUMF has been understood for years to apply to a variety of threats emanating from Iraq. Administrations of both parties have cited it as an important legal foundation of our fight against ISIS.
“It’s been used precisely because the ISIS caliphate that stretched into Syria emanated from Iraq after President Obama’s withdrawal in 2011.
“The 2002 AUMF is important in Iraq today because it provides authorities for U.S. forces there to defend themselves from a variety of real, exigent threats.
“It’s arguably even more important in Syria, where our personnel are present against the wishes of the brutal Assad regime, supporting local Kurdish and Arab forces, and conducting strikes against ISIS.
“And because ISIS and al Qaeda have sometimes diverged, legal analysts have suggested the 2001 AUMF alone may be insufficient to authorize operations against ISIS.
“Do supporters of this repeal fully understand the ways it might limit counterterrorism missions? Cyber ops? Support for Kurdish and Arab forces in Syria?
“How do they propose we respond to growing attacks against our forces and interests in Iraq?
“And what about the prospects for robust Congressional oversight if the President is left to rely on unilateral Article II authorities, or even less transparent ones?
“We’re learning a lesson in real time about withdrawing from Afghanistan without a plan. We shouldn’t make the same mistake here.
“I suspect this isn’t really about reasserting Congressional oversight.
“After all, when the last Administration announced plans to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan in 2019, two dozen Democrats joined my amendment opposing the decision and reasserting our role in foreign policy.
“But now, many of our colleagues no longer want to talk about what we should be doing to confront these threats.
“A lot can happen in two years, I guess. The political winds have certainly changed.
“But, one thing hasn’t. The grave threats posed by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups are as real as they’ve ever been. And repealing AUMFs without agreeing on new authorities up front will only lead to more uncertainty about what we’re going to do about them.
“For years, U.S. forces have been carefully handing more of the primary responsibility for counterterrorism to brave local partners. Under the last Administration, this allowed for our military footprint in Iraq and Syria to shrink dramatically.
“But that’s only worked because our partners have been able to trust that the U.S. military is still authorized to back them up. And today, House Democrats intend to rip out one of the key authorities underpinning that trust.
“As I understand it, Democrats don’t even intend to stop there. They’re also planning to take aim at the 2001 authorities that allow us to keep some of the most dangerous terrorists alive from taking more innocent American lives.
“The Administration says it’s looking into how best to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that houses the absolute worst of the worst, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks.
“But thus far, it’s rather short on details. How does the President plan to do this?
“Does he intend to break the law and bring terrorists to the United States? Give them expanded legal rights? Further radicalize our prison population?
“Talk about Domestic Violent Extremism.
"Or does the President intend to send KSM and his terrorist cronies to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia before they’ve faced justice?
“Closing Guantanamo Bay will not make Americans safer. It will not bring solace to the victims of terrorism.
“It will not make America more respected in the world.
“And it won’t solve the terrorists’ threat any more than repealing AUMFs will end their war against us.”
Related Issues: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Iraq, Syria, National Security, America's Military, Iran