Speaking to the Senate Appropriations Committee today, Secretary of State John Kerry once again made clear that President Obama’s Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS won’t seriously limit the ground war.
The language of the nominal ban on ground combat only applies to “enduring offensive combat operations,” which includes so many exclusions that almost anything could be allowed.
Kerry insisted that “enduring” combat only meant “weeks and weeks of combat,” and wouldn’t cover any operations which are meant to assist Iraqi or other forces on the ground.
Kerry claimed the “enduring” term was invented by hawks Sen. Robert Menendez (D – NJ) and Bob Corker (R – TN), though Corker’s spokesman has since denied they came up with the idea.
Whoever came up with it, the point was to be vague enough that the president has “discretion” to carry out the war in whatever way he thinks appropriate.
The White House also made this clear earlier, in trying to get hawks to support the bill, saying the limitations were all so deliberately vague that they wouldn’t limit much of anything.
This alienated the less hawkish Congressmen they were hoping to lure in with promises of limits, while the vague language has also left a number of hawks opposing it, saying they want a bill more openly aggressive.
The planned offensive in Mosul appears to be a prime case for this vagueness, as Pentagon officials have made clear US ground troops will be involved in combat roles in this fight, though they will nominally be “helping” Iraqis in carrying out the offensive, so it won’t count as “enduring” in that regard, even if it takes a long time.