Kerry vows for open-ended US war against ISIL

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress on Tuesday not to preclude the use of ground forces to fight the Islamic State as lawmakers consider setting limits on the nature and extent of American involvement in the military campaign against the group.
Mr. Kerry made his request in testimony before an unusual session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He underscored that the administration was prepared to negotiate over a measure authorizing the use of force, but he made clear that the administration believes it needs greater flexibility than many lawmakers seemed ready to allow.
“This president has been crystal clear that his policy is that U.S. military forces will not be deployed to conduct ground combat operations against ISIL,” Mr. Kerry said, using an alternate name for the group. “It doesn’t mean that we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander in chief or our commanders in the field in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee,” he added.
The White House believes that it already has the legal authority to continue the offensive against the Islamic State. But the committee is expected to vote this week on whether to limit the American engagement in the Middle East. Bowing to congressional pressure, the administration has signaled it is prepared to discuss the terms of a new war powers measure that would address the concerns of both Congress and the White House: It would try to assure members that the United States was not involving itself in an open-ended conflict while preserving considerable flexibility for the president.
“Let’s agree to try to find a way to talk this through,” Mr. Kerry said. Mr. Kerry said that any congressional resolution should not impose geographic limitations, reasoning that the Islamic State might try to attack American forces or facilities outside of Iraq and Syria.
Mr. Kerry said that a three-year time limit would be acceptable, as proposed by Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the committee. But Mr. Kerry said the resolution should include a provision that would allow that time limit to be extended.
Mr. Kerry’s insistence that a measure not ban the use of ground combat troops was a particular point of debate for senators worried that the United States was incrementally becoming more involved in the fighting inside Iraq.
Though President Obama has repeatedly said he does not plan to conduct such ground combat operations in Iraq, Mr. Kerry said he did not want to tie the president’s hands in case of exceptional circumstances, such as the seizure of a hidden cache of chemical weapons by the Islamic State or the seizure of hostages.
One possible compromise, Mr. Kerry suggested, may be to include a provision in a new congressional resolution that there would be “no enduring combat operation.”
Because Congress has so little time to act before it adjourns for the year, the debate over war powers is certain to spill over into next year, when Republicans will control both the House and the Senate.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Mr. Kerry had provided some principles that Congress and administration could build on.
Yet it was already clear that the debate would be shaped by some powerful external political forces. Two Republicans on the committee, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, are considering running for their party’s presidential nomination in 2016. Their views could not be more different.
Mr. Rubio, who has a more traditional Republican belief that the American military should have a robust global presence, said he believed that many in the committee were trying to “micromanage military tactics.”
That was a direct shot at senators like Mr. Paul, who have introduced proposals that would limit the authorization of force against the Islamic State to one year before the president has to come back to Congress and would rule out the use of ground forces except for very specific circumstances like the capture of a high-value target.
Another common complaint was once voiced by Senator John McCain,
Republican of Arizona, when he said the president should not be reacting to measures proposed by lawmakers but should be putting forward one of his own for Congress to consider.
“It has got to be led by the commander in chief,” he said.
At issue for many on the committee is the belief that the administration has
stretched its legal authorization, which dates back to 2001, to continue fighting in
the Middle East. “Congress, rather than the executive, has the responsibility and the
authority to authorize military action and to declare war,” Mr. Menendez said. “We
are the check and balance on executive power, regardless of who that executive is.
And if we abandon that role, then we will have done a grave disservice to the
American people.”

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