December 09, 2014

Udall Presses Kerry on Strategy, Authority for War Against ISIS

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, expresses skepticism, frustration that White House has not worked with Congress on AUMF

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, attended a hearing on the war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to share his grave concerns about the United States entering a third war in the region. Udall expressed his frustration with the administration's reluctance to work with Congress to define the scope of and authorization for its military engagement against ISIS. Udall questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about the continuing role Congress should play in granting authority for military operations. And he pressed Kerry for answers about how the administration plans to pay for the war, highlighting that recent military engagements in the region have been "paid on the government credit card."

Udall continues to push for Congress to live up to its constitutional responsibility to define the president's authority in engaging with ISIS, and believes it is critical to repeal the broad authorizations used to justify our current military involvement against ISIS, Operation Inherent Resolve. Finally, Udall said he will push for a one-year limit to this authority, and that Congress must have a say in extending the engagement or broadening the scope of U.S. military action.

Udall issued the following statement:

"To be frank, I share in the disappointment expressed by many of my colleagues-that it took this long...for the administration to engage with us to develop a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. I agree that the threat posed by ISIS is very real. We must face this challenge. We owe it to the families of the three servicemen who have already lost their lives in Operation Inherent Resolve. We owe it every American citizen to fully debate these issues-in the light of day. The Constitution provides Congress the responsibility to declare war- because it is not a decision that should be made lightly.

"I know many of my constituents remain skeptical about the ongoing conflict in Iraq-where we have been actively engaged for over a decade. And now we are told we have a new 'multi-year' engagement. I plan to press for a one-year duration for this new ISIS-focused AUMF. We must be watchful that this engagement doesn't vastly change in scope without the approval of Congress and support from our constituents.

"As Secretary Kerry knows, I am also quite skeptical about the so called moderate forces in Syria. Public domain sources are full of reports-of defections and loss of U.S. funded weapons-to the forces of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria. And that some rebels have joined forces with ISIS - so they may only be 'moderate' when seeking U.S. weapons. 

"I opposed arming rebel groups last year, but the current defense authorization includes funding for U.S. weapons and training for 'moderate' forces in Syria. I have requested more information-from Secretary Kerry and from the president-on the effectiveness of this strategy, including progress of ongoing covert trainings. But I have yet to receive a full and adequate response.

"I remain highly skeptical-that current vetting and monitoring efforts are sufficient to prevent more of the same...with more U.S. arms and resources falling into the wrong hands. And if they fail, then we will see more and more calls for U.S. direct involvement-including ground forces. I believe the American people are deeply, deeply skeptical of this situation."