JERUSALEM – Senior al-Qaida leader Abu Anas al-Libi was captured by U.S. Special Forces earlier this week under the authorization of a Bush-era military law that President Obama recently criticized and vowed to repeal.
Amid Libyan concerns about the raid, Secretary of State John Kerry justified al-Libi’s abduction in Tripoli as a fair use of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF.
Kerry stated al-Libi’s capture was a “legal and and appropriate target for the U.S. military under the Authorization of the Use of Military Force passed in September 2001.”
The AUMF doctrine was signed into law by President Bush immediately following the 9/11 attacks.
AUMF grants the president authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those determined to have “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or who harbored al-Qaida groups.
The same law was utilized to justify an Oct. 4 raid against Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, known as “Ikrima,” a Kenyan of Somali origin and top commander in the terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate.
The Defense Department cited UAMF in a press release about Ikrima’s capture.
“The goal of the operation was to capture Ikrima under legal authorities granted to the Defense Department by the 2001 authorization to use military force against al-Qaida and its associated forces,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little.
However, just a few months ago Obama strongly criticized UAMF and even called for the law’s repeal.
In a speech in May at the National Defense University, Obama said the UAMF law, like the war on terror, was aging and needed to be changed and ultimately ended.
“So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate,” he said. “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. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Obama emphasized that with the AUMF now nearly 12 years old, the Afghan war was coming to an end and “core al-Qaida is a shell of its former self.”
“Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states,” he said.
With additional research by Joshua Klein.