Congress shouldn't just stand by idly while the administration commits U.S. troops to serve under a U.N. command in Somalia, Sen. Sam Nunn says.
"We've got some responsibilities here and we better start paying attention to them," Nunn, D-Ga., said Thursday in urging Congress to take up the issue of authorizing American forces in the U.N. peacekeeping mission.Nunn, speaking to a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee he chairs, said he supports the transition to a U.N. command in Somalia.
But he said that the new U.N. force, which will have wide latitude to take military action against security threats in Somalia, is "precedent-setting in many respects," and it is "extremely important that the president consult with and seek authorization from the Congress" for use of U.S. troops.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., agreed that the president has an obligation under the War Powers Act to seek congressional authorization for sending Americans into a situation where casualties might occur.
Levin said that while he too supported the Somali operation, the failure of Congress to become involved was "an abdication of our responsibility."
Lt. Gen. Martin L. Brandtner, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said about 4,000 American support troops will remain in Somalia under U.N. command after the transition is completed.
He told the panel that a quick-reaction force consisting of an Army infantry battalion will also stay, but under the command of an American general.
Brandtner said there could be instances where the American combat forces could be under the command of a non-American U.N. officer.