President Obama, Congressional Leaders Should Craft Narrowly-Tailored AUMF Against ISIS

Washington, D.C.​ – As President Obama and congressional leaders prepare to meet at the White House on Friday, Human Rights First urges them to prioritize narrowly-defining the legal authorities for use of force against ISIS and other terrorist threats.  At a post-election press conference yesterday, the president indicated that he plans to ask for a new authorization from Congress that “suit[s] the current fight, rather than previous fights.”

“Tomorrow’s meeting is a tremendous opportunity for the administration and Congress to learn from the mistakes of the past and to clarify and limit where the United States is ‘at war,’“ said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Any authorization for force against ISIS should be narrowly tailored for that threat, and it’s time to begin to sunset the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).”

Human Rights First notes that ISIS is a prime example of how the threat posed by violent extremist groups has changed in recent years. Neither the 2001 nor 2002 congressional AUMF clearly apply to ISIS. A new, all-encompassing AUMF that does not distinguish ISIS from other terrorist groups or threats around the world is both legally problematic and bad strategy.

As President Obama and congressional leaders meet tomorrow to discuss a new authorization in the fight against ISIS, Human Rights First notes that any new AUMF should:

  • Explicitly define the scope of operations;
  • Specify mission objectives;
  • Ensure greater transparency and congressional oversight;
  • Comply with international law;
  • Sunset, rather than expand, the 2001 AUMF.

“The president and Congress should learn from the experience of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaida and the Taliban—where war-making authorities for one mission were stretched and contorted over the past decade to cover a different set of threats, without Congressional oversight and without due regard to the costs of using force in response to all of these threats—to ensure that any new AUMF is narrowly tailored to meet the threat from ISIS and sunset or repeal the 2001 AUMF.”

For a more detailed set of recommendations regarding congressional authorization in the fight against ISIS, see Human Rights First’s fact sheet, “Gaining Global Legitimacy and Promoting the Rule of Law: Necessary Inclusions for an AUMF to Combat ISIS.”


Published on November 6, 2014


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