President Joe Biden expressed support on Friday for replacing decades-old authorizations for the use of military force in the Middle East, just over a week after relying on them to carry out a retaliatory airstrike against an Iranian-backed militia in eastern Syria.
The Biden administration declared its stance after a bipartisan bill was introduced earlier this week that would revoke the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for the Iraq wars, which have been used by presidents of both parties to justify strikes in the region.
Biden is committed to working with Congress to “ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a limited and clear structure that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while stopping the endless wars,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Last week, Biden sparked bipartisan outrage when he ordered strikes against Kataib Hezbollah facilities. The strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack in northern Iraq in February that targeted US troops and civilians without first obtaining congressional approval. In the past, the US has blamed the militia for a number of attacks in Iraq that targeted US personnel and interests.
Senator Tim Kaine, one of the bill’s main sponsors, said that relying on decades-old authorizations for military action “serves no operational reason, keeps us on a permanent war footing, and undermines Iraq’s sovereignty.”
“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria demonstrate that the Executive Branch, regardless of faction, will continue to extend its war powers,” Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine said.
Officials from the Obama administration justified the airstrikes, claiming that they targeted installations that housed vital “capabilities” used by Iranian-backed militias to battle American and allied forces in Iraq.
However, some prominent members of Congress, including those from Biden’s own party, have condemned the attacks, which are the first military action he has approved. Without special circumstances, Kaine and others contend that aggressive military action without congressional approval is unconstitutional.
The White House expressed support for replacing the authorizations while also warning that the US may consider military action in response to a rocket attack on an air base in western Iraq that housed American and coalition troops earlier this week. At least ten rockets crashed into the base early Wednesday, killing a US contractor.
“If we determine that additional response is necessary, we will act in the manner and time that we determine,” Psaki said.