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Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Hearing on Authorization for Use of Military Force After Iraq, Afghanistan

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing titled “Authorization for use of military force after Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“This hearing will come to order. Let me welcome our panelists to this important hearing on how, when, and where the United States brings to bear the power of our military.

“The 9/11 AUMF has served the United States well. It has provided broad authority for the U.S. to pursue and dismantle Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a foundation to authorize U.S. operations against Al-Qaeda elsewhere, and against groups and individuals which have operationally associated themselves with Al-Qaeda, like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – an expansion that the Congress and U.S. courts have endorsed.

“That said, with the winding-down of significant U.S. military activities in Afghanistan by the end of this year, it is appropriate to begin re-assessing the 9/11 AUMF, in light of new circumstances and new threats that have evolved over time.

“The President himself recognized this a year ago, when he said that he looked forward to “engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.”  He also stated that he “would not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.”

“I feel it is time to seriously consider what options and tools we have to counter what appears to be a continued and in some regions growing threat of terrorism to the United States.

“This hearing will consider existing authorities under the current Authorization of the Use of Military Force, as well as what additional statutory authorities may be required to confront ongoing threats associated with Al Qaeda and other terrorist entities that threaten the United States, and the broad authorities inherent to the President of the United States outside of any statutory regime.

“I want to hear from our Administration witnesses what the thinking has been in the Executive Branch about the current AUMF and options to either amend or develop a new AUMF to confront the changing threat environment.

“I would ask all our witnesses to answer a simple question today: Is the 9/11 AUMF broken in some way?  Is it obsolete?  Is it inadequate to the threats we and our friends and allies face today and for the foreseeable future.

“If we amend or draft a new AUMF, what would this new authority look like, how would we determine which threats to pursue in order to secure ourselves at home and abroad.

“Finally, I would like to hear the views of each of our witnesses on the prospect of repealing the Iraq AUMF, which I believe must be repealed.

“It’s my understanding that, from a legal and operational perspective, there are no barriers to repeal and no deficiencies of needed authorities to assist the Government of Iraq in counter-terrorism activities.

“These are important questions that must be answered. Now, not in a moment of crisis, is the time to have this important dialogue. There is no issue more important to our national security than whether to use military force. Current and future threats necessitate our engagement and our attention.

“I thank our witnesses for being here and look forward to an informative exchange.

“Before I turn to Senator Corker, we have received a statement for the record from Human Rights First on the issues we will cover in this hearing.”

Panel One

“On our first panel we have Stephen Preston, General Counsel at the Defense Department and Mary McLeod, the State Department’s Principal Deputy Legal Adviser.

“Thank you both for being here.

“Let me remind you that your opening statements will be included in the record in their entirety, but I would ask that you try to summarize in five minutes so we can proceed with questioning.”

Panel Two

“On our second panel we have Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale and Former State Department Legal Advisor and Michael Mukasey.

“Again, let me remind you that your opening statements will be included in the record in their entirety, but I would ask that you try to summarize in five minutes so we can proceed with questioning.”