Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee, announced that he was introducing legislation tomorrow -- before the debate on the National Defense Authorization Act begins this week -- that would sunset the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) beginning in 2015. Following the September 11 attacks, the Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force to provide the President with requisite authorization to use "force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Schiff's legislation finds that the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) now poorly defines those who pose a threat to the country, and that it should expire concurrent with the end of our combat role in Afghanistan. The bill sunsets the AUMF effective December 31, 2014.
"When Congress passed the AUMF shortly after 9/11, we did not intend to authorize a war without end," said Rep. Adam Schiff. "The cessation of our combat mission in Afghanistan next year is a logical end point for an authorization that now provides a poor description of the groups which threaten us, and an increasingly precarious legal rationale for going after them. As the President observed recently, if we don't define the nature of the threat we face, it will define us."
Since the AUMF passed, the U.S. has invaded Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban and routing the core of Al Qaeda. The authorization has also been used to support targeted strikes against Al Qaeda's operatives in other countries, and used as a basis to detain terrorists at the facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The country now face threats from individuals, entities and organizations that may affiliate with al Qaeda, or share its ideology and its determination to attack Americans, but which may not have even been in existence on September 11, 2001. With the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and the transition to Afghan national security forces at the end of 2014, it is time for the President and Congress to work together to determine a proper legal basis for protecting the country going forward. The bill will effectively give Congress the next 18 months to do so.
In his recent speech at the National Defense University, President Obama specifically called on Congress to work with him. "I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate," Obama said. "And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end."