Updated 6:40 p.m. | President Barack Obama told Congress Thursday that he has the authority on his own to send troops to Iraq indefinitely under the Constitution.
“These forces will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed,” Obama told lawmakers of his decision to send 300 military advisers there.
“This action is being undertaken in coordination with the Government of Iraq and has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive,” Obama wrote in a letter to Congress.
Obama does not use either the 2001 authorization to use military force (AUMF) after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks nor does he cite the 2002 Iraq AUMF as justification. Both acts of Congress remain in effect today because they have no expiration date and have not been repealed.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., have contended that Obama must get the approval of Congress before launching strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) . Obama has only said that he is “prepared” to launch strikes but has not yet committed to doing so.
After a meeting with Obama last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama asserted he already has the authority to act on his own in Iraq and doesn’t need their permission. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also said following that meeting that Obama has the authority to act militarily. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., quoted Obama saying he is not currently considering actions that would require Congressional approval but would consult with Congress if that changed.
The administration itself has not clarified whether Obama believes he can launch strikes against ISIL without a new authorization from Congress, but has supported repealing the 2002 Iraq authorization to use military force .
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, noted the president has said he will consult closely with Congress, in an email.
“He has not taken a decision to undertake military action; should he do so, then we can talk about whether additional approvals or authorities might apply,” she said.
Here is the full text of his letter:
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
As I reported on June 16, 2014, U.S. Armed Forces personnel have deployed to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
I have since ordered further measures in response to the situation in Iraq. Specifically, as I announced publicly on June 19, I have ordered increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that is focused on the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). I also ordered up to approximately 300 additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel in Iraq to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces and to establish joint operations centers with Iraqi security forces to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the threat posed by ISIL. Some of these personnel were already in Iraq as part of the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Security Cooperation, and others began deploying into Iraq on June 24. These forces will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed.
TEXT OF A TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
This action is being undertaken in coordination with the Government of Iraq and has been directed consistent with responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.
Sincerely, BARACK OBAMA