Armed Conflict Foreign Relations & International Law

White House Releases Annual Report on Legal and Policy Frameworks for Military Force and National Security Operations

Matt Gluck
Monday, March 4, 2024, 5:17 PM

The White House says the U.S. used force in Iraq, Syria, and Somalia in 2023.

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On March 1, the White House released the unclassified portion of its annual “Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks for the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations” for 2023 required under section 1264(a) of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Obama administration released the first of these reports in December 2016; this is the sixth report submitted since. 

According to the report, the U.S. used force in Iraq, Syria, and Somalia in 2023. The White House notes that U.S. forces deployed to Iraq and Syria to counter the Islamic State and al-Qaeda “continued to use necessary and appropriate force to defend themselves and partner forces from attacks or threats of imminent attack.” In a footnote, the White House asserts that the authority to use force under the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force extends to the use of force to defend U.S. forces operating pursuant to those statutes—a legal theory known as ancillary self-defense

The report also references a Defense Department instruction establishing procedures related to the mitigation of and response to civilian harm and a notification the White House provided to Congress—the substance of which is classified—under section 1264(b) of the FY 2018 NDAA “transmitting notice of changes to the legal and policy frameworks for the United States’ use of military force and related national security operations related to recent United States military operations against Iran-aligned militia groups.” The White House provided both the instruction and notification to Congress in December 2023. 

You can read the report here or below:


Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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