October 30, 2015

Kaine Statement on Announcement of U.S. Forces to Syria

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, released the following statement today:

“15 months ago, President Obama announced the authorization of two narrow operations in Iraq – targeted airstrikes to protect American personnel in Erbil and a humanitarian effort to save thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped by ISIL on Mount Sinjar.  At that time, he stated that American combat troops would not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.  The only lasting solution, he said, is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces. I agree with this diagnosis.

“However, since then, we have seen the United States increase troop deployment levels to more than 3,500 servicemembers and undertake approximately 7,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria at a cost of over $4.75 billion or $11 million a day.  We have seen the deaths of U.S. citizens – first the execution of American hostages after the bombing began in August 2014, then the death of American servicemen who were deployed in the area, and then sadly, the first combat death last week of Master Sergeant Wheeler.

“We have seen ISIL growing into more countries.  Originally in Iraq and Syria, there is now an ISIL presence in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.  We have also deployed troops to Cameroon to counter Boko Haram, which has claimed an alliance with ISIL.

“We have seen the acceleration of the worst refugee crisis since World War II with thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing conflict, resulting in overcrowded camps in neighboring nations and a growing crisis across Europe.  We have seen inflamed violence between Turkey and the Kurdish populations in Turkey and northern Syria. And now we have seen the Russian military enter the theater in Syria in an accelerated way.

“I strongly believe that ISIL is a significant threat to our national interests and must be destroyed and defeated, although every military and national security official – from the President to his generals to his defense secretary – acknowledges that it will take years to do this. But as this war intensifies and broadens, Congress has sat on its hands and failed to perform one of its most fundamental constitutional duties – to debate and vote on an authorization for the President’s use of military force.  The framers of the Constitution understood then, as now, that the decision of whether to place citizens in harm’s way in defense of this nation – to declare war – must be made by the people through their elected representatives. 

“It is also time for the Administration to propose a unified strategy that addresses the intertwined challenges posed by ISIL and President Assad.  I strongly support the efforts underway today in Vienna to bring a peaceful end to the civil war in Syria and note the incongruity to pursuing political discussions while at the same time ramping up our U.S. military presence in Syria to address half the problem – ISIL, but not Assad. 

“We are now one year, two months, and 23 days into an unauthorized and executive war. It is time for Congress to do its most solemn job – to debate and declare war.  It is also time for the Administration to detail to the America people a comprehensive strategy to bring both the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, which are metastasizing around the globe, to a peaceful end.”