US justifies Somalia raid under AUMF, which Obama seeks to repeal
In a statement citing the Authorization to Use Military Force, which was passed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks on America, the US military yesterday justified the Oct. 5 raid by US Navy SEALs that targeted a senior Shabaab leader in Somalia. But just four months ago, President Barack Obama called for the repeal of the AUMF, claiming that the law will "continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states."
The Department of Defense cited the AUMF in a press release announcing the raid that targeted Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, also known as Ikrima, a Kenyan who serves as a senior Shabaab leader and coordinates the group's operations outside Somalia with al Qaeda's central command in Pakistan.
"The goal of the operation was to capture Ikrima under legal authorities granted to the Department of Defense by the Authorization to Use Military Force (2001) against al-Qa'ida and its associated forces," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in the statement released on the DoD's official website. Ikrima was not captured during the raid.
Little described Ikrima as "a top commander in the terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate," who had been "closely associated" with two deceased senior al Qaeda operatives, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh al Saleh Nabhan. Fazul, a senior Shabaab commander who was al Qaeda's former leader in East Africa, was killed at a checkpoint in Mogadishu in 2011. Nabhan also served as a top leader in both Shabaab and Al Qaeda East Africa, and was instrumental in facilitating the official merger of al Qaeda and Shabaab. Both men were wanted for their involvement in al Qaeda's 1998 suicide attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
But the Pentagon's use of the AUMF to justify the raid to capture Ikrima comes just four months after Obama gave a speech at the National Defense University calling for the repeal of the law. Obama painted a rosy picture of the war in Afghanistan and al Qaeda, claiming that the former is "coming to an end" and the latter is "a shell of its former self."
"I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing. The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old," Obama said. "The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States."
Shabaab was not mentioned by Obama as posing a threat to the United States.
While urging that the time to repeal AUMF had come, Obama said that efforts to target "terrorist organizations must continue," but he did not outline how the groups are to be targeted, or how such action would be justified absent the AUMF.
"So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate," Obama continued. "And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end."
Just weeks after Obama gave his speech at NDU, Representative Adam Schiff introduced a bill to sunset the AUMF as of Dec. 31, 2013. The bill was defeated in the House by a vote of 185 to 236, with 12 abstentions. Support for the repeal of the AUMF has increased drastically in the past two years. In 2011, only one Representative voted against the AUMF.