Afghanistan moves reignite war authorization debate

Afghanistan moves reignite war authorization debate
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As the Pentagon prepares to send another 1,000 military advisers to Afghanistan, several lawmakers have again taken up legislation that would give Congress more say in U.S. military decisions.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (R-Tenn.) said Thursday that his committee would soon debate and amend a bill for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF). Corker had previously promised the action in October.

“I will say that there’s a lot of progress being made on the AUMF, and I think we’re going to be in a place, really soon, to have a markup," Corker said at a hearing on the Trump administration’s strategy for Syria after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is defeated.

"We’re doing it in a way to engender support and input from members on both sides of the aisle."

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE's administration has continued to use a 2001 AUMF passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to justify a range of military actions, including the fight against ISIS.

A handful of lawmakers want the language revoked for a more tailored war authorization bill, arguing the current AUMF has reached far beyond what it was meant to allow.

Efforts to replace the AUMF over the years have stalled, however, amid party divisions over issues such as how long the authorization should last, what terrorist groups should be included and whether ground troops should be allowed.

But with the Pentagon sending more drones, vehicles and new combat advisers to Afghanistan as soon as February, lawmakers are making another effort to reconcile divisions and push for a new AUMF.

“It should justify a debate, absolutely,” House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesExperts warn Georgia's new electronic voting machines vulnerable to potential intrusions, malfunctions Georgia restores 22,000 voter registrations after purge Stacey Abrams group files emergency motion to stop Georgia voting roll purge MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

Jones, along with fellow committee member Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiWuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China GOP seizes on 'defund the police' to galvanize base Peace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field MORE (D-Calif.), co-authored a bill that would force a debate and vote in Congress on a new AUMF for Afghanistan. But that effort has been met by an unmoving House GOP leadership.

“The new announcement of another 1,000 troops may give us an opportunity to bring it back up,” Garamendi argued in a separate interview on Friday.

The authorization debate was kicked into high gear last June after Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeIt's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms Democrats introduce bill to repeal funding ban on abortions abroad Democrats hope clash resonates with key bloc: Women MORE (D-Calif.) sought to sunset the 2001 AUMF and force a debate and vote on what she called “perpetual” U.S. wars.

That effort was blocked the following month by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (R-Wis.), who argued it was not right to end the current war authorization without a guaranteed replacement. But the move ignited a new argument on the issue.

“As far as I’m concerned, he has denied members of Congress their constitutional responsibility,” Jones said of Ryan. “We haven’t been able to get a policy debate on Afghanistan since 2001.”

The looming threat of North Korea and the October deaths of four U.S. service members in Niger — a country where many lawmakers were unaware the U.S. had active military operations — have only given air to calls for a new war authorization.

Jones expressed frustration at being unable to move his bill, which he and Garamendi sent to both the House Rules and Foreign Affairs committees.

The North Carolina Republican said he spoke last month to Rules Committee Chairman Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsThe Hill's Campaign Report: New polls show Biden leading by landslide margins The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - In Rose Garden, Trump launches anti-Biden screed Pete Sessions wins GOP runoff in comeback bid MORE (R-Texas) about getting a hearing and would press him again in the next few weeks.

Jones and Garamendi have also explored putting together an unofficial hearing in February held by the minority party that would bring in veterans and constitutional lawyers to speak on the AUMF issue.

But Jones lamented that “it’s going to take the pressure of the American people, or some type of legal action” for their bill to move forward.

Garamendi said that lawmakers' best chance at getting a new AUMF might be when the next National Defense Authorization Act comes to the floor.

“There’s a higher probability of getting an amendment to be voted on on the floor of the House of Representatives. But again, last year we were precluded from doing that,” Garamendi said.

In the Senate, Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThree pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.) have also proposed a new war authorization that would cover use of force only against certain extremist groups and would expire after five years. The White House would need to ask Congress to add additional groups.

Kaine told Defense News that negotiations to shore up their bill with Corker’s ideas are ongoing. Kaine also said he will reach out to House lawmakers about their proposals once senators work out a compromise.