Trump administration opposes effort to rein in war powers

The Trump administration views congressional attempts to pass a new authorization for U.S. military operations in the Middle East as unnecessary, a State Department official said Wednesday.

The administration asserts that Congress’ 2001 war authorization covers its current military presence in the region, including U.S. air strikes against Syrian government-backed forces in May and June, according to a letter sent by State to Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker on Thursday.

The formal explanation of the administration’s legal views comes hours before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are set to brief senators Thursday afternoon on the parameters of the current war authorization. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are leading a push for a new authorization in the Senate, while House Republican leaders last month headed off a bipartisan bid to repeal the 2001 authorization.

"The United States has sufficient legal authority to prosecute the campaign against al-Qa’ida and associated forces, including against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)," Charles Faulkner of State’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs wrote to Corker.

"This legal authority includes the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) which authorizes the use of military force against these groups. Accordingly, the administration is not seeking revisions to the 2001 AUMF or additional authorizations to use force."

Addressing U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, Faulkner said that previous airstrikes approved by President Donald Trump "were limited and lawful measures to counter immediate threats to U.S. or partner forces engaged in that campaign."

"The United States does not seek to fight the Syrian Government or pro-Syrian-Government forces," Faulkner continued. "However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., Coalition, or partner forces engaged in the campaign against ISIS."

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