Group of 25 prominent nonprofits urge Congress to pull war powers

A group of 25 prominent nonprofit organizations on Wednesday urged Congress to end “forever wars” and rein in presidents’ war-making authority. 

The groups, which range the political spectrum, ask lawmakers to join Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) effort to sunset the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), established in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They also ask Congress to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, which authorized force against the Saddam Hussein regime.

The authorizations have been used by both the Trump and Obama administrations as legal justification for counterterrorism operations around the globe, including against ISIS, al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Critics, however, say it has been inappropriately stretched beyond its original intent.

“Nearly two decades of endless war has failed to make us safer and a new approach is necessary,” the groups write in a Feb. 17 letter.

They argue that the law “failed to include any time limits, geographic constraints, specific objectives or an exit strategy,” and as a result, three successive administrations “have used the law to unilaterally expand the nation’s use of military force against individuals, groups, and even nation states never intended by Congress.”

Congress in the past several years has attempted to repeal or replace the AUMFs, an effort led by Lee and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). But the Biden administration may give the effort a new push, as it has indicated it is open to reevaluating the authorizations.

“With a new president who has signaled support for our government’s institutional checks and balances and a U.S. public that supports an end to endless war, it is time for Congress seize the opportunity to reassert its constitutional authority over war powers,” the groups write.

They suggest that Congress should now sunset the 2001 AUMF eight months after a law is enacted and immediately repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF. If no new AUMF is conceived in the interim, they argue that Article II of the Constitution provides the president with the legal authority needed to defend the United States against armed attack. 

In a separate letter to President Biden also sent on Wednesday, the groups lay out what can be done to end the AUMFs through executive action.  

The Biden administration is facing one of its first tests in deciding how to approach the long-running conflict in Afghanistan, begun under the 2001 AUMF.

The Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban with an expectation that they would reduce attacks on Afghan forces and participate in good-faith peace talks with the Afghan government, as well as deny safe haven to terrorist groups intent on attacking the West. 

In exchange, the U.S. military is supposed to fully withdraw by May. 

But U.S. officials have repeatedly said the Taliban has failed to live up to its commitments, and Biden must now decide whether to stick with the May withdrawal. The Taliban has threatened renewed attacks on U.S. forces if the timeline is not met.

Tags authorization for use of military force Barbara Lee Forever wars Joe Biden Military Terrorism Tim Kaine

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