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Afghanistan politics imperils effort to claw back 2001 war powers

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The rocky U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is imperiling Congress' plans to repeal the war authorization that sent American troops to the Middle East in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Lawmakers have reached bipartisan agreement on repealing two war authorizations that set up U.S. military presences in the region — the first passed in 1991, during the first Gulf War, and the second in 2002 — but the tumultuous politics of Afghanistan is making repeal of a 2001 authorization thornier than expected. Congress wants to revise that war authorization, but the Biden administration's pullout from Afghanistan has complicated the question of how to do it.

Here's the conundrum: The administration has said counterterrorism efforts in the region will continue despite the U.S. withdrawal. President Joe Biden himself declared last month that "the fundamental obligation of a president, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America — not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow." Some lawmakers, however, say Biden doesn't have the authority to do that without a new version of the 2001 war authorization.

“I’m all for allowing the administration to use force when it’s needed. But it’s got to be authorized by Congress, and today they really don’t have an authorization that’s relevant to what they’re doing,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime proponent of repealing the 2001 authorization.

Biden's plans for a new phase of the war on terror, lawmakers in both parties say, only underscores the importance of revising the 2001 authorization for the use of military force — or AUMF — that gave then-President George W. Bush broad power to attack those who orchestrated the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Yet it could be months before they can agree with the White House on a new framework,........

© Politico

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