By: Helina Daniel
In December 2018, President Trumpunexpectedly announced his decision to remove troops from Afghanistan, and recently senators have been cautioning against the abrupt move. The announcement also comes in the midst of conflicting assessments of the international threats facing the United States regarding the Middle East, which is causing concern amongst House and Senate Republicans whodisagree with President Trump’s foreign policy moves. The hasty withdrawal also contradicts the rhetoric of President Trump and senior leaders that continue to claim Al-Qaeda (AQ), ISIS, and other terror groups are high priority targets. Senior national security aides to the President have tried to communicate the national security implications of a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, predictingwithdrawal would lead to an attack on the United States within two years.
Other concerns include legal implications of whether this withdrawal means the “war on terror” is coming to a close. The authority to fight the “war on terror” stems from the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the wake of 9/11. It has now been used bythree consecutive administrations for military operationsand its uses today are attenuated from its original purpose. The United States has become entangled in several complicated conflicts with the AUMF as its leading authorization. The Obama White Housejustified its use of the AUMF to fight ISISbased on the group’s relationship with Al-Qaeda, its history of conducting attacks against U.S. persons and interests, and the extensive history of U.S. combat operations against ISIS dating back to the time the group first affiliated with AQ in 2004 though they no longer align themselves with AQ today. More recently, the Trump administration has broadly interpreted the AUMF to permit the use of force in Syria, which is another area from which he has announced U.S. troops will be withdrawn.
With Trump claiming victory against terror groups, leading people to believe the fight is over in addition to the reduction of troops, it will become more difficult to continue broadening the use of AUMF to justify actions such as thecontinued detention of enemy combatantsin Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. With the end of hostilities, international legal authority to detain enemy combatants is called into question, and implicates the status of several detainees held without charge at Guantanamo Bay post 9/11.It also calls into question the legal authority behind theTrump administration’s use of the broad interpretation of the AUMF, which encompasses limited strikes against the Syrian regime and pro-regime forcesto defend the U.S. Coalition and its partner forces despite the Syrian regime forces not being associated forces of ISIS under the AUMF.