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Mattis And Tillerson Reject Limits On America’s Forever Wars
Is there an end in sight for the Global War on Terror? Don’t count on it.
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 30, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers over the need for a new authorization for the use of military force to replace 2001 AUMF that, passed amid the fear and panic that gripped the nation in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, has justified U.S. Department of Defense counterterrorism missions around the globe ever since. And after the deaths of four Army Special Forces personnel during an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger, lawmakers are reconsidering the Pentagon’s expanding footprint in Africa and abroad with renewed political vigor.
The White House isn’t that interested: Confirming September reports out of the National Security Council, Tillerson told lawmakers today that the White House is not currently seeking a new AUMF to iron out the legal questions surrounding the ever-evolving Global War on Terror.
“The United States has the legal authority to prosecute campaigns against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and associated forces, including ISIS,” Tillerson said. “The 2001 AUMF remains a cornerstone for ongoing U.S. military operations and continues to provide legal authority relied upon to defeat this threat.”
Current U.S. military areas of operations authorized under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the September 11th terror attacksPhoto via Defense Intelligence Agency
Should Congress decide to exercise its constitutional war-making (and -stopping) authority, though, Mattis and Tillerson have a few requests: first, that there be no gap between the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and the enactment of a new authorization to avoid “operational paralysis” (Mattis objected to even repealing the 2001 and 2002 authorizations); and more importantly, that there be “no time or geographical constraints” on when and where U.S. military assets are deployed in its game of whack-a-mole against terror groups.
Even operational limits — like, say, restricting engagements to airstrikes and bombing sorties, rather than deploying combat troops — would end up hindering long-term objectives “given the way the enemy morphs,” Tillerson said.
“Legislation that would prematurely end the AUMF would be inconsistent with a conditions-based approach and embolden enemies who want to outlast us,” Mattis said, citing the Afghan war strategy Trump laid out during an Aug. 21 speech. “The enemy does not limit itself based on geographic boundaries [and] the collapse of the ISIS caliphate means it will attempt to burrow into new countries and find new safe havens. There must be nothing that restricts or delays our ability to respond rapidly to terrorist threats to the U.S.”
Trump’s strategy “in South Asia is conditions-based because war is unpredictable. We cannot put a firm timeline on conflict,” Mattis added. “These are not traditional threats. We must be prepared to swiftly engaged this global enemy with our allies and partners.”
Translation: No limits, no change.
Mattis doubled down on the the Obama administration’s 2014 claim that the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs provided all the legal basis they needed to initiate Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS as an “associated” offshoot of Al Qaeda — despite the fact that ISIS didn’t even exist when the legislation was drafted more than 15 years ago. After the 2011 military drawdown in Iraq and the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Al Qaeda “quickly rebranded as ISIS,” said Mattis, launching attacks from “the Sahel to Southeast Asia” — thinly veiled references to evolving ISIS beachheads in the Lake Chad Basin region and the Philippines. (Mattis is, strictly speaking, wrong here: ISIS is not a rebranded Al Qaeda, and in fact the groups have been at each other’s throats. But he’s not wrong that they’re both dead-end anti-American groups.)
Mattis even mentioned the ISIS-inspired attacks on San Bernadino and Orlando as reminders of the group’s domestic dangers. “A statement of congressional support would be welcome,” Mattis said, “but it is not legally required.”
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 274 prepare to perform casualty evacuation drills during a training operation at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, North Carolina, March 9, 2017.Photo by DoD
Despite the month-long political imbroglio triggered by the Niger ambush, it appears the administration won’t face much pushback in Congress — and the White House knows it. Tillerson and Mattis’ conditions on a new AUMF rule out the March bill proposed bill by Sens. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia.
In his opening remarks, committee chairman and Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker stated that the good ol’ 2001 AUMF, despite its flaws, “will remain necessary for the foreseeable future to prevent attacks on America and our allies,” despite the need for lawmakers “to reassert Congress’s constitutional role” as, you know, the governmental body that actually makes war.
“Congress is united in strong support of the fight against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and other terrorist groups,” Corker said. “Congress has regularly been notified of deployments around the world, including the building in Niger” — hear that, Lindsey Graham? — “and responded accordingly by funding the Department of Defense’s counterterrorism missions.” Mattis concurred later in his testimony, reminding lawmakers that the “power of the purse” — Congress’s constitutional authority over actually funding the U.S. armed forces — “is firmly vested in your hands.”
But if there was ever a time to throw the brakes on America’s forever wars, it may be now. The post-Niger moment of clarity facing both lawmakers and the American public regarding the true scope of the Global War on Terror, along with wavering public support for Trump as commander-in-chief, give congressional watchdogs an opening.
“We ought to aspire to be more than just part of a feedback loop. Article 1 authority is more than that,” said Flake, who announced last week that he would retire from the Senate rather than stand for reelection. “We have to make sure that our adversaries and our allies and most importantly our troops know we speak with one voice.”
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.