US Senators Demand End to Afghan War and a Return to Constitutional Law
February 10, 2014
Agence France-Presse & The Pakistan Daily News
A bipartisan group of senators demanding an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan urged President Barack Obama on Thursday to seek congressional approval if he wants to keep troops there beyond 2014. In January, several US lawmakers led by Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation that would finally bring to an end Washington's authorization to wage war in Iraq.
US Senators Demand Say in Afghanistan Deal
Agence France-Presse & The Pakistan Daily Times
WASHINGTON (February 8, 2014) -- A bipartisan group of senators demanding an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan urged President Barack Obama on Thursday to seek congressional approval if he wants to keep troops there beyond 2014.
The Obama administration is negotiating a bilateral security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that could keep troops in Afghanistan after the longest war in US history winds down at the end of this year, when the NATO mission ends.
"We are introducing a bipartisan resolution to say before any American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is committed to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, Congress should vote," Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley told reporters.
"Automatic renewal is fine for Netflix and gym memberships, but it isn't the right approach when it comes to war."
Conservative Senator Mike Lee and fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul have also signed on.
The resolution does not take sides on keeping troops in Afghanistan, nor does it prevent the US military from attacking al Qaeda or gathering intelligence there, Lee noted.
It simply states that "after more than a decade of war, Congress, and more importantly the American people, need to have a voice in this debate," he said.
"The decision to sacrifice American blood and treasure in this conflict should not be made by the White House and the Pentagon alone."
Congressional resolutions are not legally binding, but they can convey a sense of where lawmakers stand on an issue and put some pressure on the administration.
The Senate and House of Representatives both introduced similar measures last year, albeit in amendment form, but neither passed the full Congress.
The Afghanistan war, which began shortly after the 9/11 attacks of 2001, has cost more than 2,300 American lives and $600 billion, the resolution states, adding it is time for Afghans to take responsibility for governing themselves.
"This resolution basically says it all: rebuild America, not Afghanistan," said Senator Joe Manchin, a Democratic co-sponsor who said Karzai was no Washington ally.
Senators Aim to End US Iraq War Authority
Agence France-Presse & The Pakistan Daily News
WASHINGTON (January 16, 2014) -- Several US lawmakers led by Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation Tuesday that would finally bring to an end Washington's authorization to wage war in Iraq.
President Barack Obama's White House backs the efforts, in principle, having withdrawn US forces in December 2011. Obama has declared the war over, yet a loophole in the law green-lighting the March 2003 invasion allows for future US presidents to send troops back to Iraq, still a turbulent country.
A bill spearheaded by Paul, a libertarian who consistently seeks to scale back foreign intervention by US forces, and backed by several Democrats would repeal the authorization, known as an AUMF.
"Two years ago, President Obama declared the war in Iraq over," Paul said. "With the return of our troops and practical side of the mission concluded, I feel it is necessary to bring the war to an official and legal end." Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has clashed with Obama over national security, notably on the use of military drones, but the White House backs the senator's latest position.
"The administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF since it is no longer used for any US government activities," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
"We understand that some in Congress are considering legislation related to the Iraq AUMF, and we will certainly examine these proposals as they come forward." A US official said the White House has not actively sought to repeal the AUMF "because the effect would be entirely symbolic, and we have many more pressing priorities to take up with Congress."
But Democratic supporters of the two-page bill, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, said closing the book on an "open-ended" war resolution was a key check on a commander-in-chief's power.
"No president, Democrat or Republican, should have a blank check when it comes to war," Gillibrand said.
The legislation brings together an unlikely band including arch-conservative Senator Mike Lee and liberal Senate stalwart Ron Wyden.
One of 23 senators who refused to vote for the Iraq war resolution back in 2002, Wyden said it "makes sense" to end the AUMF now. "While sectarian conflict and violence still persist in Iraq, it must be the Iraqis -- not the men and women of the US military -- who now make the difficult choices, forge a stable and inclusive political order and steer their country to peace and prosperity."
In October 2002, by more than two to one, US lawmakers authorized president George W. Bush to use military force to oust Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
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