An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

White House Seeking Support Of Congress In Fight Against ISIS

The White House is expected to send Congress language this week which if passed would authorize military action against the militant group ISIS, action that has been underway since last summer.

The president has been asking Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS for months now, and for months Republicans in Congress have demanded that the White House draft the language. That language is now being finalized after numerous discussions between the White House and members of Congress from both parties, discussions requested by Congressional leaders.

According to a source familiar with the outreach, "Senior White House officials including the president, Secretary of State John Kerry, White House Counsel Neil Eggleston, Director of Legislative Affairs Katie Beirne Fallon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Avril Haines and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes" have all been involved in conversations with lawmakers.

Obama requested the new authorization to get congressional buy-in, while originally asserting that the military action against ISIS — dubbed "Operation Inherent Resolve" — could proceed under an AUMF dating back to the Bush administration. That measure authorized military action against al-Qaida. Although ISIS has split with al-Qaida, its origins trace back to the group al-Qaida in Iraq.

"I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL," Obama said in his State of the Union address earlier this year. "We need that authority."

According to a congressional aide, the White House language is expected to be specific to ISIS and will have a provision limiting so-called boots on the ground except for specific reasons like rescue missions. It is also expected to repeal the 2002 AUMF that authorized the war in Iraq, but wouldn't touch the authorization from 2001 that authorized the so-called war on terror.

The White House is considering making this AUMF temporary, the aide said, sunsetting it after three years to allow the next president and Congress to shape war policy as they see fit.

The precise timing of the release of the White House language isn't finalized, according to an administration source, as the consultations with Congress continue.

This is a challenging issue for congressional Republicans and Democrats alike. Passing an AUMF would put congressional approval and fingerprints on the fight against ISIS, a fight where the path forward is far from certain. Many Republicans want the option of sending in ground troops, while many Democrats still feeling the sting of the 2003 Iraq war want to limit involvement.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.