U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 that would remove Section 1209 of the bill granting the Department of Defense two-year authority to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition.
U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined their effort to block the authority from becoming law until the entire Congress has debated the policy.
“The strategy for defeating the Islamic State in Syria has still not been well-articulated,” Senator Schatz said. “I remain deeply skeptical that training and equipping the Syrian opposition is an effective course of action. For most of these fighters their primary goal is to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, giving us no assurances that they will actually fight the Islamic State. Empowering them risks worsening the violent conditions that have given rise to the Islamic State ... This authority should not be buried in a must pass defense authorization bill. Congress should have a full debate on the potential consequences that this train-and-equip provision could have on U.S. policy in Syria and the broader region.
“The President does not have the authority under the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to conduct an open-ended war in Syria,” added Schatz. “Congress ought to revoke these AUMFs and debate a new, more tailored authorization for the use of force against the Islamic State.”
“It is critical to combat the grave threat posed by ISIS, but authorizing and funding a train-and-equip program without proper debate and an Authorization for the Use of Military Force is a disservice to our service men and women who are risking their lives carrying out this campaign,” said Senator Booker. “That is why I am joining my colleagues in co-sponsoring this amendment. A debate on a new authorization to defeat ISIS is overdue.”
Last week, Senators Schatz and Baldwin sent a letter to President Obama to immediately submit for Congressional consideration a proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force specific to the war against the Islamic State. In the letter, the Senators said that they believe this action will allow Congress to properly evaluate the President’s vision and strategy for combat operations and will foster the critical debate that the American public deserves.