How the US has justified overseas military action

2014-09-23 15:40

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A look at the domestic legal justifications the U.S. has used for military action around the world:

Iraq and Syria

Congress passed an Authorisation for the Use of Military Force in Iraq in 2002, clearing the way for the US-led war in Iraq. President Barack Obama is taking action in Syria, acting under the same use-of-force authorisation. That authorisation still is on the books but Obama has called for it to be repealed but he has also used it as support for strikes against terror targets in Yemen and Somalia.

The White House says Obama had the power to authorise the airstrikes currently underway in Iraq through the inherent commander-in-chief powers outlined in the US Constitution and it has made a similar argument regarding the airstrikes in Syria. Officials note that Iraq's sovereign government requested US military assistance to combat Islamic State militants.


In the days after the 11 September, 2001, terror attacks, Congress passed an Authorisation for the Use of Military Force that was meant to give President George W. Bush the ability to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

The Bush and Obama administrations have both used the 2001 force authorisation to justify drone strikes against terror targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The US also has back-channel consent for the strikes from Pakistan's government and a more overt agreement with Yemen.


Obama did not seek congressional approval when the US joined NATO allies in a 2011 bombing campaign in Libya. Officials argued that the nature of the mission, which did not involve American combat troops and was commanded by NATO, did not require authorisation from lawmakers.

Read more on:    al qaeda  |  is  |  nato  |  barack obama  |  george w bush  |  afghanistan  |  us  |  syria  |  somalia  |  libya  |  iraq  |  yemen  |  pakistan

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