the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The Authorization of Military Force Against ISIL Terrorists: What You Need to Know

Summary: 
The President submitted a draft proposal to Congress that would authorize the continued use of military force against ISIL. Here are a few answers to questions about his AUMF proposal.

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Right now, America’s armed forces are working with some 60 nations to degrade and destroy ISIL, a terrorist group that has committed countless barbaric atrocities and poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners. Coalition air strikes have been instrumental in disrupting ISIL’s command and control and supply lines and taking out their commanders and fighters. 

The mission is a difficult one, but make no mistake, our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.   

Although the President already has the legal authority he needs to take action against ISIL, he has noted that we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. A bipartisan authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL would provide a clear and powerful signal to the American people, to our allies, and to our enemies that the U.S. is united behind the effort to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. 

That is why the President submitted a draft proposal today to Congress that would authorize the continued use of military force against ISIL. What exactly is he asking for? For how long? What will our armed forces be asked to do? Here are some answers to a few questions you may have about the President’s AUMF request:

1. What is an AUMF?

An AUMF, or authorization of use of military force, is a law passed by Congress that authorizes the President to use U.S. military force.  

2. What is the President’s proposal for an AUMF against ISIL? 

The President is submitting a draft of an AUMF to Congress to authorize the continued limited use of military force to degrade and defeat ISIL. Key elements of the President’s proposal include:

  • A three-year limit on the AUMF so that the next President, Congress, and the American people can assess the progress we have made against ISIL and review these authorities again
  • A repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF which authorized the 2003 Iraq invasion under President George W. Bush

It’s important to note that the AUMF the President is proposing would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. His proposal does seek the flexibility to conduct ground operations in other, more limited circumstances, including:

  • Rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel
  • Special Operations missions against ISIL leadership
  • Intelligence collection and assistance to partner forces

3. Why is this AUMF against ISIL important?

ISIL poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners. These terrorists are responsible for the deaths of innocent U.S. citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Jean Mueller. 

ISIL leaders have stated that they intend to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including against the United States, its citizens, and interests. That is why the President is committed to working with Congress to continue our efforts against ISIL.

4. Will this be the first time we will use military force against ISIL?

No. The U.S. is currently leading over 60 partners in an international effort to degrade and destroy ISIL, and together, the coalition has conducted more than 2,300 airstrikes to date. However, as the President has said, we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. Enacting a bipartisan ISIL-specific AUMF would clearly show the force of our united resolve to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.

5. So is our military going to engage in ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan?

No.  As the President has said repeatedly, the U.S. should not be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.  That’s not in our national security interests -- and it’s not necessary. Local forces on the ground  who know their countries best -- including Iraqi, Kurdish, and moderate Syrian opposition forces -- are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL -- and they are. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases, and they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment.  But they do not have a combat mission.

6. How is this AUMF different from President George W. Bush’s AUMF that authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq?

Unlike the AUMF that authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the President’s proposal does not authorize enduring offensive ground combat operations and limits this authorization to three years.  In short, the President’s proposal is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq.

Read the President's remarks here