FAQ: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Authorities for the Use of Military Force
- Question: Does the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) cover ISIS?
Answer: No. The 2001 AUMF authorizes the use of force against those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks or those harboring them. It has been construed by the executive branch and the courts to apply to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their “associated forces.” According to information provided by the administration, ISIS does not fall into any of these categories.
- Question: Why isn’t ISIS an “associated force” of al Qaeda under the 2001 AUMF?
Answer: ISIS has no substantial connection to al Qaeda, based on publically available information and fails to fit the Obama administration’s own definition for an “associated force.” The administration has stated that to be considered an “associated force,” a group must be (1) an organized, armed group that has entered the fight alongside al Qaeda, and (2) co-belligerent with al Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. The administration has further said that “an ‘associated force’ is not any terrorist group in the world that merely embraces the al Qaeda ideology.” ISIS is neither a “co-belligerent of al Qaeda,” nor has it entered the fight alongside it. To the contrary, al Qaeda has officially and publicly declared that it “has no links to the ISIS group” and the two groups have engaged in hostilities against each other, with ISIS killing key al Qaeda leaders. With no operational connection to al Qaeda or the Taliban, ISIS cannot be considered an “associated force” and is not a legitimate target under the 2001 AUMF.