Wednesday, May 22, 2013

War Against al-Qaida To Last Decades

... the Pentagon’s chief of irregular warfare still sees a war against al-Qaida that will last decades, all over the world — a prospect that prompted astonishment and constitutional debate in the Senate.
Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, “At least 10 to 20 years.”
It was just two months ago that the top U.S. intelligence official testified that al-Qaida had been battered by the U.S. into a state of disarray
A year ago, the current CIA director, John Brennan, said that “For the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al Qaeda core is simply no longer relevant.” 
Just this week, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel, told a Florida conference that he was looking at missions beyond the counterterrorism manhunt.
There is no geographic limit to that war, Sheehan and others testified, thanks to the seminal law authorizing it in the days after 9/11, known as the Authorization to Use Military Force. Thanks to that relatively terse authorization, U.S. counterterrorism stretches “from Boston to the FATA,” Sheehan said, using the acronym for Pakistan’s tribal areas. 
Asked if individuals who were not born on 9/11 but join al-Qaida are legal targets for the U.S. military, acting Pentagon chief lawyer Robert Taylor answered, “As long as they become an associated force under the legal standard that was set out.”
That extensive authority, particularly inside the United States promptedhighly publicized protest on the Senate floor by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in March. Members of the panel expressed shock that Sheehan and Taylor envisioned such a broad, long war.
“You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). King pointed out that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al-Qaida, or AUMF, was specifically bounded to avenging the 9/11 attacks, and does not contain the words “associated forces”repeatedly invoked by Taylor, the top Pentagon lawyer.
“You guys have invented this term, associated forces, that’s nowhere in this document,” King said. “It’s the justification for everything, and it renders the war powers of Congress null and void.” 
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), expressed incredulity over the Pentagon’s broad interpretation of the AUMF. “None of us” who voted for the law in 2001 “could have envisioned [granting] authority [to strike] in Yemen and Somalia,” McCain said.
While the Pentagon takes an expansive view of the powers Congress granted it under the AUMF, it has resisted for years efforts by Congress to revise the document. Taylor’s predecessor, Jeh Johnson,rejected the House Armed Services Committee’s 2011 push to vote on an updated AUMF, although more than half of currently-serving legislators were not serving when the 2001 law passed. It’s unclear how much appetite Congress has for revising the AUMF; nor whether such a revision would restrict U.S. counterterrorism efforts or expand them even further, to target groups or individuals unrelated to al-Qaida.
The only circumstances under which the administration might need new authorities for counterterrorism, Sheehan said, would be if a new terrorist group unaffiliated with al-Qaida arose to threaten the United States. 
Via: Wired
NOTE: The following video was not part of the "Wired" article:

SEN. ANGUS KING: Gentlemen, I’ve only been here five months, but this is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today.

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