War on Terror

Biden Says He Wants War Authorizations Repealed

Just keep an eye on the small print. The wars might officially end while still allowing inappropriate military meddling.


Politico reports today that President Joe Biden is willing to work with Congress to repeal the Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) that launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to be invoked today to justify military intervention throughout the Middle East.

This could be great news, depending on what ultimately gets negotiated. The problem is that while Biden talks a good game about ending "forever wars" (as did his two predecessors), the most recent military strike on Syria shows that our president wants to keep the authority to engage in some surgical uses of force. And while Biden did campaign on ending the wars (as did all the Democratic candidates), he still wants to keep some military forces active in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East to collect intelligence.

The statement White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sent Politico said Biden wants to "ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars."

Reading between the lines, though, while Biden wants to end the full military authorizations, he still wants to be able to act on what the administration sees as threats without having to get the approval of Congress.

On Wednesday, Sens. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) and Todd Young (R–Ind.) introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal two AUMFs passed in 1991 and 2002 that authorized military force in Iraq.

At the moment, that's all the resolution does. It repeals the two AUMFs, does nothing else, and replaces them with nothing. This is good, meaning that there aren't any exceptions here authorizing strategic or smaller military interventions in Iraq.

But the resolution most notably does not repeal the AUMF passed in 2001 just days after September 11, which authorizes the use of the military against any nation, terrorist group, or individual the president deems to have been involved in the attacks. That AUMF is why we still have troops in Afghanistan, and so this resolution will not end our military intervention there.

We are being warned that, despite the promises made both to Americans and the Afghan government, the Biden administration may not pull military forces out by the established May deadline.

Politico says that Biden's office is looking to Kaine to lead a bipartisan discussion of the repeals of the AUMFs. Keep an eye on what Kaine actually ends up writing. Back in 2018, after Trump's unauthorized military strike on Syria, he drafted a resolution that actually expanded the president's authority to engage in military strikes against selected terrorist organizations without having to get permission from Congress.

That language is fortunately not in the resolution introduced this week. But because Kaine and Young didn't include the 2001 AUMF in the resolution, we can predict that the administration is looking to negotiate keeping at least some military forces in Afghanistan and perhaps elsewhere in the Middle East.