Kerry calls for US war powers to strike ISIL
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC, March 11, 2015. AFP PhotoSecretary of State John Kerry urged lawmakers Wednesday to give President Barack Obama updated war powers to go after Islamic jihadists at "a pivotal hour" in the battle against the militants.
"Our nation is strongest when we act together -- and we simply cannot allow this collection of murderers and thugs to achieve its ambitions," Kerry told Congress.
He said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group which has captured a swath of land in Iraq and Syria wanted to ensure "the death or submission of all who oppose it" as well as "the incitement of terrorist acts across the globe."
Appearing at the Senate foreign relations committee, Kerry as well as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the top US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, called for a united vote in favor of a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) to take on IS.
Tantamount to a declaration of war, the authority would provide Obama political cover at home and a firmer legal basis on which to prosecute the fight, particularly among allies abroad who have joined a US-led international coalition.
So far, the Obama administration has used the existing authorization for use of military force against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their branches approved in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks as the legal justification for going after ISIL.
"The president already has statutory authority to act against ISIL, but a clear and formal expression of your backing would dispel any doubt anywhere that Americans are united in this effort," Kerry said, using another acronym for the group.
He urged the divided body to come together and "speak with a single powerful voice."
Carter stressed the new resolution would expire in three years and "wisely does not include any geographical restriction because ISIL already shows signs of metastasizing outside of Syria and Iraq."
"I cannot tell you our campaign to defeat ISIL will be completed in three years," Carter said, but including a so-called "sunset clause" would give the next president and "the American people the chance to assess our progress" at the end of that period.