By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2015 – President Barack Obama has sent a draft resolution to Congress to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The president spoke about the draft authorization during a White House announcement this afternoon. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry stood with the president.
The draft resolution would give the United States the authority to fulfill the objective of destroying the terror group in Iraq and Syria, the president said. U.S. forces and coalition allies are already striking at the group in the region. American forces are operating under authorizations passed after the 9-11 attacks.
Air forces have launched more than 2,000 strikes against ISIL. “We’re disrupting their command and control on supply lines, making it harder for them to move,” Obama said. “We’re destroying their fighting positions, their tanks, their vehicles, their barracks, their training camps and the oil and gas facilities and infrastructure that fund their operations. We’re taking out their commanders, their fighters and their leaders.”
The airstrikes are happening in conjunction with Iraqi ground forces. Iraqi security forces have largely held the line against the ISIL terrorists. “In Syria, ISIL failed in its major push to take the town of Kobani, losing countless fighters in the process, fighters who will never again threaten innocent civilians,” the president said. “And we’ve seen reports of sinking morale among ISIL fighters as they realize the futility of their cause.”
While it will take time to destroy the hateful group, “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose,” Obama said.
He delineated what the draft resolution does and does not do. It supports the strategy against ISIL – aerial assaults and training and equipping indigenous forces for ground combat. It also would aid in preventing ISIL attacks in the region and beyond, including by foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten coalition countries.
No U.S. Ground Combat
“The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria,” the president said. “It is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases. And yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment, but they do not have a combat mission.”
U.S. forces in Iraq are training Iraqi forces including the Kurdish peshmerga. “I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East,” Obama said. “That’s not in our national security interest and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL and that’s what they are doing.”
The draft resolution also gives military leaders the flexibility to adjust to the changing nature of the battlefield, the president said. “We need flexibility, but we also have to be careful and deliberate,” he said. “And there’s no heavier decision than asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives on our behalf. As commander in chief, I will only send our troops into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary for our national security.”
The draft authorization runs out after three years.
“I believe this resolution can grow even stronger with the thoughtful and dignified debate that this moment demands,” the president said. “I’m optimistic that it can win strong bipartisan support and that we can show our troops and the world that Americans are united in this mission.”