WH: 'We've Always Said That We're at War With Al Qaeda and Its Affiliated Networks'

By Susan Jones | January 27, 2015 | 6:29am EST

President Barack Obama reaches out to troops at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on May 2, 2012. (Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama never wanted to be a war president, but apparently  he is.

Not only has he has taken credit for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; he also has insisted on several occasions that the United States will not be "dragged into another ground war in the Middle East," and he has emphasized that the United States is moving away from a "13-year war footing."

But in the past two days, two different Obama aides have said that the U.S. is "at war with al Qaeda and its affiliated groups."

Most recently, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters in India on Monday, "You've heard us for years say that we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliated groups."

Rhodes was responding to a question about White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who told one of the Sunday talk shows that, "We are...at war against al Qaeda, its manifestations in Yemen, its manifestations in South Asia, its manifestations in East Africa, North Africa."

"Are we at war with al Qaeda?" a reporter asked Rhodes on Monday:

"Look, we’ve always said that we’re at war with al Qaeda and its affiliated networks, that that’s been an ongoing effort," Rhodes said. "That’s, frankly, rooted also in the AUMF (authorization for the use fo military force) that was passed after 9/11.

"And look, we have made great progress against al Qaeda core, and we’ve made this distinction many times, that while we have decimated leadership ranks of al Qaeda core in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that what you’ve seen is the emergence of different affiliates, particularly AQAP (in Yemen).  That’s one that we’ve been uniquely focused on the last several years.  So that is how we approach it.

"I think in terms of the permanent war footing though, part of this gets at what is the model and the approach that we’re using to go after terrorist networks.  And what the president does believe is that we can do this in a way that does not involve the significant deployment of American ground forces.  And there, I think, we have moved off the type of war footing we were on when we took office and we had 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That number is now under 15,000.

"But when you’re still using force against terrorist networks, you’re still using drones and air power against terrorist networks, and we still continue to train and advise and assist partners as we are doing in Afghanistan, this is still very much a war against this network."

In his State of the Union message last week, President Obama noted that American "military power...is stopping ISIL's advance" in Iraq and Syria. He also called on Congress to pass a resolution authorizing "the use of force against ISIL."

But House Speaker John Boehner says it's up to the White House to submit a new AUMF to Congress:

"In the new Congress, I would urge the president to submit a new authorization for the use of military force regarding our efforts to defeat and to destroy ISIL," Boehner said at a news conference last week.

"I reminded the president last month that historically the commander-in-chief has identified the need for the use of military force, written a new AUMF, sent it to Capitol Hill and worked to build bipartisan support for that measure."

Also See:
Despite 'War Against Al Qaeda' in Yemen, Obama Seeks to Release 47 Yemenis from Gitmo

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