Obama seeks war powers, stresses resolution does not authorise large scale ground war

US President Barack Obama (above) stressed on Wednesday that the new draft war powers resolution he submitted to Congress does not seek to authorise the deployment of US forces on the ground. -- PHOTO: AFP
US President Barack Obama (above) stressed on Wednesday that the new draft war powers resolution he submitted to Congress does not seek to authorise the deployment of US forces on the ground. -- PHOTO: AFP

US President Barack Obama stressed on Wednesday that the new draft war powers resolution he submitted to Congress does not seek to authorise the deployment of US forces on the ground.

However, the legislation is left vague to allow enough flexibility for the US forces to act in unforeseen circumstances in the fight against the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Speaking during a televised address, Mr Obama sought to clarify one of the most contentious lines in his new war powers resolution.

The document, which will expire three years after being enacted, imposes no geographical limit on where US troops can be deployed to combat the militant group, but bars “enduring offensive combat ground operations”.

The vague term had raised many questions from both Democrats worried that it leaves too much room for a potential ground offensive, as well as Republicans who are concerned that it limits the effectiveness of US forces.

In his address, Mr Obama said the resolution would not seek approval for the sort of large scale ground war the US has previously engaged in in the Middle East.

“The resolution we submitted today does not call for the deployment of US ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorisation of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.

“The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases. And yes, they face the risk that come with service in any dangerous environment but they do not have a combat mission…

"As I’ve said before, I’m convinced the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. It’s not in our national security interest and it is not necessary for us to defeat ISIL.” ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.

Mr Obama reiterated his belief that local forces would be in a better position to launch a ground offensive against the group.

However, the President did outline a scenario where he would be willing to send American troops into battle.

“This resolution strikes the necessary balance to give us the flexibility we need to deal with unforeseen circumstances. For example, if we had actionable intelligence about a gathering of ISIL leaders, and our partners didn’t have the capacity to get them. I would be prepared to order our special forces to take action because I would not allow these terrorists to have a safe haven.

"So we need flexibility but we also have to careful and deliberate.”

On the three-year time limit outlined in the resolution, he said it was not meant to spell out a timetable for the conflict.

“It is not a timetable, it is not announcing that the mission is completed in any given period. What it is saying is that Congress should revisit the issue at the beginning of the next president’s term. It is conceivable that the mission is completed earlier. It is conceivable that after deliberation, debate and evaluation, that there are additional tasks to be carried out in this area. And people’s representatives with a new president should be able to have that discussion,” he said.

The draft war powers resolution submitted today is likely to be debated by Congress in two weeks, after its scheduled recess from Feb 14-22.

The White House maintains that the resolution is a move to present a united government face when it comes to the fight on ISIS.

It says that it already has legal authorisation for the use of force thanks to a 2001 war powers resolution given to former president George W. Bush to fight those linked to the Sept 11 attacks.