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AUMF: Rewrite and Renew

Author: Charles E. Berger
December 13, 2013
National Interest Online


With the end of combat operations in Afghanistan expected next year, we should resist the urge to declare the "War on Terrorism" over and revert solely to a law-enforcement model of counterterrorism. To ensure the nation's counterterrorism strategy does not regress to a pre–9/11 framework, Congress should reauthorize and reframe the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Twelve years ago, Congress passed the AUMF to permit the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the terrorists who conducted the 9/11 attack. Congress' intent was to authorize military force against the group now known as Core al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and any other individual who was complicit in the attack itself. The AUMF did look to the future, allowing military actions against Core al Qaeda, and others connected to it, to prevent future attacks on the homeland.

Since that time, the threat has evolved. Other terrorist groups changed their names to identify themselves as al Qaeda affiliates and, in some cases, conducted attacks on the United States and its allies. Some of these groups are closely tied to Core al Qaeda. Other groups' connections are tenuous at best. Still others, like al Shabab, are closely connected to Core al Qaeda, but forgo the al Qaeda moniker for their own strategic reasons.

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