Sheehan, Taylor: AUMF still legal basis for war

A panel of defense leaders said to Congress on Wednesday that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force is still a legal basis for war and will continue to be until hostility with al-Qaida ceases to exist.

The AUMF allows the U.S. President "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 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."

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Michael A. Sheehan and Robert S. Taylor, acting general counsel for the Defense Department, testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the law of armed conflict, military force and AUMF.

Taylor began the session by defining warfare, which he said is to achieve military objectives without superseding anticipated military advantage, inducing unnecessary suffering or infringing upon the principles of humanity.

Sheehan told Congress that as long as al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated groups are in practice, the 2001 authorization AUMF remains valid. Sheehan also said recommendations are based on "careful, fact-intensive assessment" of threats a group may pose to the U.S. in addition to its ability to be targeted.

In addition to this, Sheehan said each leader in the military chain of command reviews and discusses all recommendations before applying force, particularly for incidents outside of Afghanistan.

"Military orders implementing a final decision are then transmitted down through the military chain of command to the relevant forces that carry out such operations," Sheehan said. "This process includes rigorous safeguards to protect innocent civilians."

With this, other leaders who addressed the congress confirmed they have not seen an instance where legal authority was not just before ordering a combatant mission to be executed.

Sheehan told Congress that hostilities with al-Qaida are soon coming to an end and when it does, AUMF will cease to be in effect.

"I believe it's at least years in advance, based on my understanding of the organization, of resiliency of al-Qaida and its affiliate forces," Sheehan said. "It's many years in advance."