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President Obama’s War Authorization Languishes

By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security

What is the status of the president’s war authorization? Soon it will be nearly two months since President Obama sent his war authorization to Congress, in an effort to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known as ISIS.Obama War ISIS

For the past few weeks all the attention has focused on the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and little interest has been paid to what strategy the U.S. will pursue with regard to ISIS.

Congress is out of session and will return in mid-April, but so far no action is planned once lawmakers return.

The Washington Examiner reported that no Democrat has formally lined up behind Obama’s Feb. 11 request, with many demanding additional limitations on ground troops. Republicans, meanwhile, believe Obama’s war authorization request – which puts a three-year cap on war powers, and prohibits “enduring offensive ground combat operations” – is too restrictive, and would place limits on our military that would make it difficult to defeat the terrorists.

“We don’t know of a single Democrat in Congress … that supports that authorization for the use of military force,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said to Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey at a March hearing. “On the other hand, the authorization for the use of military force that has been sent up is one that is limited in some ways, both in duration and relative to the activities that the commander in chief, through you, can carry out.”

Republicans are not enamored with the president’s request as they feel it’s too restrictive and hampers or hamstrings the military in conducting military operations against ISIS.

The real debate which has not been articulated, what is the political strategy the U.S. is trying to pursue against ISIS, and for that matter in the broader Middle East?

The war authorization the president sent to Congress in February left numerous unanswered questions, and to this day these questions are left unresolved as to what the U.S. strategy is against ISIS and in other areas of the Middle East.

A robust debate is needed to address these crucial issues. First, are military operations against ISIS only limited to Iraq, or will the U.S. commit the proper amount of military force to degrade and destroy the Islamic militant sanctuary in Syria?

Now, it looks like Iraqi security forces and Shia militia groups have seized control of Tikrit with the help of U.S. air power, this after being bogged down, even with Iranian backing, the United States had to be called on to help end the stalemate. The question, what is the next phase of operations ISIS? The U.S. wants Iraqi security forces to move toward Mosul, but the Iraq’s are eyeing operations in Anbar province.

If military operations move north, how, and will Iraqi forces coordinate military operations with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, given they have never worked together and have deep seated hatred for each other.

All military commanders agree that a ground force will have to be used inside Syria properly to degrade and destroy ISIS’s, but the administration has not articulated who that force will be.

If and when ISIS is defeated, who will fill the vacuum left in its aftermath?

This compounds the president’s next obstacle, which has never been fully articulated, the situation with Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Obama wants to train the Syrian opposition, but this has been lackluster at best.

Currently, the Syrian opposition is being plummeted by forces loyal to Assad and they are badly being depleted, all the while ISIS gains in number.

Back in August 2011, President Obama stated, “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

The lack of clarity with regard to Assad has angered and perplexed our Arab allies, as many still have a deep resentment toward President Obama for failing to follow up on his use of force against Assad over his use of chemical weapons.

Now with all the coverage of the Iranian nuclear negotiations, little attention has been reported on the president’s war authorization request he sent to Congress, and what is the U.S. political strategy for defeating ISIS?

This is the one question which has perplexed our military commanders.

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