The White House’s strategy toward Islamic State came under harsh scrutiny at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, with leading Democrats and Republicans both questioning whether it will be able to push back the militant group.
Senators said they would press President Barack Obama to seek a new congressional authority to launch new military strikes in Iraq and Syria to replace the 13-year-old Authorization for Use of Military Force approved by lawmakers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“You will need a new AUMF,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, bluntly told Secretary of State John Kerry, who testified on Wednesday about the administration’s policy.
Mr. Kerry said the Obama administration would work with Congress to firmly outline the parameters of the fight against Islamic State. But he said the White House’s legal team concluded Mr. Obama already had the legal authority to conduct strikes.
“We believe there is full justification here,” Mr. Kerry said.
Mr. Kerry said an international coalition he has been assembling to counter Islamic State extremists had grown to more than 50 countries, including Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Denmark in addition to frequent U.S. partners the U.K., France, Canada and Australia, as well Middle Eastern states.
He didn’t name them all or specify contributions, telling senators that those details would be spelled out in coming days.
Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Kerry reiterated that U.S. troops in Iraq “do not and will not have a combat mission” in Iraq, and said the unfolding mission would be vastly different from U.S.-led missions there beginning in 1991 and 2003.