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Massachusetts delegation skeptical of war powers request

February 16, 2015

BOSTON (AP) — Members of Massachusetts’ all-Democratic congressional delegation are casting a skeptical eye on President Barack Obama’s legislation to authorize military force against Islamic State fighters.

Obama is seeking a three-year authorization for the use of force against the Islamic State militants or any successor groups without regard to international boundaries. His proposal would leave in place 2001 legislation approving military action against al-Qaida following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she’s concerned about the rise of the militant group but doesn’t want the United States to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.

“I support a strong, coordinated response, but I also believe it is critical for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to play a leading role in this fight,” Warren said in a statement, using another name for the group.

Rep. Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who served four tours in Iraq, said the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL, is a national security threat to the United States and there must be a strategy to defeat it.

But Moulton, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also said the only solution is for local forces, supported politically by moderate regional governments, to lead the fight.

“I am not ready to support an authorization for military force until the administration presents a comprehensive strategy to ensure long-term success,” Moulton said. “The strategy should be led by political and diplomatic efforts to unify and empower a local coalition to defeat ISIL, supported by American military assistance — not the other way around.”

Rep. Stephen Lynch, the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on National Security, also said he can’t support the request.

Lynch said Obama is asking Congress to give him and his successor in the White House the option to reintroduce ground forces into any nation where the militant group may operate.

“What this proposes is a return to the same policy that has been thus far unsuccessful in Iraq and expands that policy to Syria,” he said. “I cannot support an initiative that will put America’s sons and daughters in the place of Iraqi citizens who have been trained and equipped to do that job.”

Obama says he wants flexibility to allow rescue missions, the collection of intelligence and the use of special operations forces in possible military action against Islamic State leaders.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy called Obama’s proposal a welcome starting point but said “its failure to clearly define the parameters of this mission is concerning.”

Kennedy said he’s particularly worried about leaving in place the 2001 legislation approving military action against al-Qaida, saying “it continues to allow an open-ended engagement of our men and women in uniform with little accountability.”

Sen. Edward Markey hasn’t issued a comment, but his office says he has strong concerns about this or any proposal that could lead to the unfettered deployment of American ground troops for another open-ended war in the Middle East.

The proposal has also run into opposition from some conservatives and Republicans who say it goes too far in tying the hands of future presidents.

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