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Demand Progress in support of Somalia WPR

WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, the House will vote on H.Con.Res.30, a war powers resolution introduced by Representative Matt Gaetz. The bill would remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in Somalia a year after its passage. During that period, Congress would be able to debate and vote on the continued presence of U.S. military in Somalia.

Ahead of the vote, Cavan Kharrazian, Policy Advisor at Demand Progress, issued the following statement: 

“We’re urging Congress to vote ‘yes’ on H.Con.Res.30, as there has been no congressional authorization for President Biden’s redeployment of U.S. armed forces into Somalia. Applying the 2001 AUMF to U.S. deployment to Somalia represents a significant overreach of its intended scope since the authorization was designed to address a specific attack on the United States, not to serve as a blanket justification for indefinite military action across the globe against then non-existent organizations.

“A ‘yes’ vote for this resolution should not be construed as an indication of a member’s stance on U.S.-Somalia policy or their views on the bill’s co-sponsors. Instead, it represents a principled stand in defense of congressional war powers and against a dangerously overextended interpretation of the 2001 AUMF.

“The belief that the 2001 AUMF has been misused and should be narrowed is not a controversial position. This resolution is far less ambitious in scope than other initiatives, such as House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Meeks’ legislation which would fully repeal and replace the 2001 AUMF six months after passing. That bill would explicitly not provide authorization for hostilities in Somalia. H.Con.Res.30 would be a modest first step in the wider process of reforming the 2001 AUMF.

“Congress owes it to our service members to hold a comprehensive public debate on whether or not they should continue to be put in harm’s way and for what purpose. Many of these troops were not even born before 9/11 or the creation of the organization they are tasked to fight in Somalia.”

On May 16, 2022, President Biden announced a reversal of the previous administration’s withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Somalia and reestablished a persistent military presence of roughly 500 troops in the country to combat Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, commonly referred to as al-Shabaab. The Biden Administration, as have previous administrations, has argued that such introduction is covered under the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001 (2001 AUMF), which Congress passed nearly 22 years ago to pursue those responsible for the September 11th attacks.

Al-Shabaab emerged in Somalia in 2006, five years after the September 11th attacks and after 2001 AUMF was enacted. The organization was not involved in the planning or execution of the September 11 attacks. The 2001 AUMF’s language is explicitly focused on the entities responsible for those attacks, only authorizing force “against those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” The past three administrations have erroneously applied the 2001 AUMF to al-Shabaab under a legally dubious argument that they should be considered “associated forces” to those responsible for the September 11th attacks given their affiliation with al-Qaeda. This affiliation did not begin until 2012 – more than a decade after the September 11th attacks.