Policy & Strategy

Pentagon should change 9/11-era rules of war, says Obama nominee

The use of controversial counterterrorism tactics, such as armed drone strikes and so-called “kill/capture” missions has skyrocketed under the Obama administration and its expanded use of AUMF. 

{mosads}On Sunday, U.S. Special Operations Forces carried out two kill/capture missions against high-level terrorism suspects in Libya and Somalia. 

But 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, it might be time to reconsider how Washington executes is global counterterrorism campaign, White House nominee Michael Lumpkin told Congress Thursday. 

Lumpkin, who is slated to become the Pentagon’s head of special operations and low-intensity conflicts, said U.S. forces would be better served by moving counterterror operations back under Title 10. 

Once confirmed, the former Navy SEAL and acting Pentagon special operations chief will officially replace Michael Sheehan, who retired from the post earlier this year. 

“It’s a preferred way to do things when we can, and I think we should strive to make Title 10 the principle method of conducting these [counterterrorism] operations,” Lumpkin said during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. 

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA chief John Brennan have also backed the idea of abandoning the AUMF rules and shifting back to Title 10 authorities. 

House lawmakers pushed for major changes to the AUMF as part of the debate on the fiscal 2013 Defense authorization bill earlier this year. 

One change required President Obama to notify the congressional Defense committees each time a kill/capture operation is launched against suspected terror targets. 

The other proposal would force the Pentagon and White House to review how it determines whether an individual is considered a terrorist threat, opening that person up to drone strikes or kill/capture missions. 

At the time, lawmakers argued the U.S. military and intelligence agencies has far too much leeway in determining who could and could not be targeted by U.S. forces in counterterrorism missions. 

The changes cleared the House version of the legislation, but the Senate refused to adopt those measures into the final version of the Defense spending bill. 

In May, Sheehan defended the war fighting authorities under the AUMF, telling Congress there was no need to change the rules. 

“At this point, we’re comfortable with the AUMF as it is currently structured. Right now, it does not inhibit us from prosecuting the war against al Qaeda and its affiliates,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. 

Despite his calls to eventually return counterterror missions to Title 10, Lumpkin said Thursday the 9/11-era rules “meets the needs to be able to do what needs to be done in the ongoing counterterrorism efforts.” 

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