Trump administration not seeking additional authorization to use force on ISIS

Trump administration not seeking additional authorization to use force on ISIS

The Trump administration is not seeking "additional authorizations to use force" against ISIS, a State Department representative said in a letter Wednesday.

The State Department also defended the legal authority to strike pro-Syrian government forces earlier this year under the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

"The administration is not seeking revisions to the 2001 AUMF or additional authorizations to use force," Charles Faulkner of the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs told the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Further, the administration is not seeking a new AUMF since the country has “sufficient legal authority” to prosecute the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it said.

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“The United States has sufficient legal authority to prosecute the campaign against al-Qa’ida and associated forces, including against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” Faulkner wrote in a letter to Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerJeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump Corker: 'I just don't' see path to challenge Trump in 2020 Ex-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' MORE (R-Tenn.) dated Wednesday.

"The 2001 AUMF also provides authority to use force to defend U.S., coalition and partner forces engaged in the campaign to defeat ISIS to the extent such use of force is a necessary and appropriate measure in support of counter-ISIS operations," he wrote.

The letter is a response to one Corker sent the State Department in June formally requesting its legal authority for the U.S. military shooting down a Syrian jet and other confrontations between pro-regime and U.S. forces.

It also comes the same day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are due to brief Corker’s committee behind closed doors on their views on the AUMF.

In June, the U.S. military shot down a Syrian jet it said was firing on its partnered local forces on the ground. It was the first time the United States has shot down a Syrian plane, and the first time a U.S. military jet has shot down any manned aircraft since 1999.

Additionally, there were several confrontations in May and June between U.S. and pro-regime forces at al Tanf, where U.S. forces are training local partnered forces. Two of those clashes involved the United States shooting down Iranian-made drones.

At the time, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford suggested the 2001 AUMF justified shooting the jet down since that’s what’s providing legal cover for U.S. forces fighting ISIS.

“We are there and have legal justification and the authorization of use of military force. We are prosecuting a campaign against ISIS and al Qaida in Syria,” Dunford said.

Since then, the debate in Congress over a new AUMF has heated up. A House committee unexpectedly voted to repeal the 2001 AUMF.

House leadership stopped the provision from coming to the House floor, but the surprising vote reinvigorated a conversation that has long stalled in Congress.

In Wednesday’s letter, the State Department said the United States is using force in Syria “as a matter of international law” to fight al Qaeda and ISIS to protect Iraq, "other states" and the United States.

The strikes against Syrian forces were “limited and lawful measures” to respond to “immediate threats” to U.S. or partnered forces, the letter added.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Syrian government or pro-Syrian government forces,” Faulkner wrote. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition or partner forces engaged in the campaign against ISIS.”