Washington, D.C., Apr. 7, 2023 – Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative (Rep.) Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) introduced a bill which would repeal and replace the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the U.S. President broad and unchecked authority to employ military counter-terrorism operations against “those responsible for 9/11” globally. The updated legislation would limit the scope of the 2001 AUMF to specific “terrorist hotspots,” include a sunset clause, and require reporting on a number of activities, such as “support [to] peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts, including through engagement with local civil society.”

Originally signed into law days after the 9/11 attacks, the 2001 AUMF was one of the U.S.’ legislative precedents for sweeping counter-terrorism measures during the ensuing “Global War on Terror”. Throughout its existence, the U.S. Executive Branch has broadly interpreted its authority to carry out counter-terrorism operations by use of military force under the 2001 AUMF and applied it to groups and geographical contexts beyond Al-Qaeda and Afghanistan. These counter-terrorism operations often impinged on human rights, destabilized communities, and resulted in civilian casualties.

“For too long, Congress has abdicated its constitutional prerogative over issues of war and peace to the Executive Branch, allowing administration after administration to engage the United States in forever wars,” Rep. Meeks stated in a press release.

The 2001 AUMF Repeal and Replace Bill proposed by Meeks authorizes the President to use “necessary and appropriate force” to “defend against a direct and substantial armed attack against the United States or a threat of such attack” by: 

  1. Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan;
  2. The Islamic State Khorasan in Afghanistan, and;
  3. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Iraq and Syria.  

Thus, under the amended version, only ISIS operating in Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, or Al-Qaeda operating in Afghanistan can be targeted. 

Under the reformed law, in order to target a splinter group the President would need to determine that the entity “has the same basic characteristics as the entity from which it formed…the same leadership, membership, and mission and continues to pose a direct and substantial threat of armed attack against the United States…[and] the use of force against the entity that emerged remains necessary to respond to such threat of armed attack.” 

The proposed legislation includes a four year sunset provision and reauthorization requirements. It would also require reporting and assessments on the impacts on civilian populations and a strategy of how the counter-terrorism measures coincide with development, diplomatic, and humanitarian objectives “by which the United States intends to reduce extremism, violence, and fragility relative to each such entity in order to create the conditions for the end of use of U.S. military force against such entities.” These reports would be issued yearly by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, and the heads of other relevant federal agencies involved with operations falling under the scope of the updated AUMF.

Original cosponsors of the bill include Representatives: André Carson (D-IN), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Colin Allred (D-TX), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), and Jason Crow (D-CO).  

The Charity & Security Network (C&SN) applauds Rep. Meeks and the efforts of Congress to address the devastating legacy of 9/11 era counter-terrorism measures and welcomes the initiative, in alignment with the Global Fragility Act (GFA), to integrate conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and local civil society engagement. Changes to limit the scope of the broad 2011 AUMF would likely have meaningful implications for creating the necessary preconditions for: 1) more sustainable peace, violence reduction, and addressing conditions conducive to terrorism and 2) a more enabling operating environment for civil society.

C&SN will track the developments related to this bill and continue to report on it.