The U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act that would have forced defunding of the Libyan war on Thursday, opting to pass the Cole (R-OK) Amendment instead. The ambitious bipartisan resolution from Reps. Kucinich (D-OH) and Amash (R-MI) was narrowly defeated 199-229.
The first bill, which would have banned the use of funds in any capacity for the war, was heavily opposed by Democrats with a split camp on the right. A few Democrats did support the second proposal to prohibit funding for equipment and training to “Libyan rebels.” That amendment saw the support of the vast majority of Republicans. It passed 225-201.
Both major parties remain divided amongst themselves over the legality of the Libyan War. President Obama’s justification for continued military engagement in North Africa without congressional approval hinges on his administration’s hotly debated interpretation of the term “hostilities,” which it claims aren’t taking place in Libya. Factions on both sides are voting on the principle that the President has been in violation of the War Powers Act beginning May 20, saying he didn’t get the necessary permissions from Congress within 60 days of initiating the conflict.
In Afghanistan, three separate instances of civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes have sparked outrage and public protests. According to officials, NATO planes killed as many as 11 “associated family members” of the Taliban group they were targeting in the Khost Province district of Shamal on Tuesday. A second aerial bombing in Khost on Thursday killed at least eight children and six adults. Police officials in Ghazni Province have confirmed that NATO airstrikes claimed the lives of two young shepherds on Wednesday. NATO insists that only one person, an insurgent, was killed in that attack.
On the Iraq front, U.S. officials have been pressuring Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki to “ask” for continued military support. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, confirmed Thursday that the Obama Administration is negotiating with Iraqi government officials to keep a continued military presence in the country past the December deadline for complete troop withdrawal. There are currently 46,000 troops in Iraq, and as many as 10,000 may stay.
Mullen says the talks are now centered on Iran and its supposed role in the recent resurgence in Shi’ite militia strength throughout the country. Officials claim that certain weapons used by these militias contain “Iranian materials,” proof he says of Iranian involvement in the escalating violence. Officials have voiced a new duty to stay in Iraq and control Iran’s influence. Part of their strategy will be to politically divorce Maliki’s Shi’ite party from Iran’s Shi’ite-run government.
Finally, the House approved just about all of Obama’s defense spending requests Friday. Under the 2012 defense spending bill, approved 336-87, the Pentagon will receive $530 billion for its primary budget (an $18 billion increase from 2011) along with $119 billion earmarked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $649 billion does not address military construction or nuclear weapons programs. About $33 billion has been allocated to these programs through other bills.