Necessary but Not SufficientRoundup
tags: foreign policy, war on terror, Afghanistan, American Empire
Daniel Bessner is the Joff Hanauer Honors Associate Professor in Western Civilization at the University of Washington.
Last week, President Joe Biden announced that US troops will leave Afghanistan on September 11, 2021, almost twenty years after the United States invaded the country in October 2001. The invasion was, famously, the first undertaken after Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) three days after 9/11. The 2001 AUMF unequivocally declared
that the President is authorized 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 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.
It was clear at the time that the AUMF essentially authorized the US government to invade Afghanistan to retaliate against al-Qaeda and topple the Taliban, which had harbored al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden since the mid-1990s. As the jurists Jennifer Daskal and Stephen I. Vladeck put it, the 2001 AUMF was “only authorizing military force against those who could be tied to the groups directly responsible for the September 11 attacks.”
Although written to justify the invasion of Afghanistan, successive presidential administrations have deployed the AUMF for purposes that expanded well beyond its original intent. All told, as the Friends Committee on National Legislation has noted, decision-makers “have used [the AUMF] to justify 41 operations in 19 countries by claiming that the 2001 AUMF applies to ‘associated forces’ of al Qaeda and the Taliban–a term that appears nowhere in the law. Today the 2001 AUMF is the legal basis used to justify all current wars.”
As this suggests, the 2001 AUMF in effect has become yet another tool to enable the United States to prosecute a series of endless wars in the Global South.