Can a United States President Authorize the Use of Armed Forces Abroad?

Only the United States Congress has the right to declare war, but a U.S. president can authorize the use of armed forces abroad provided that Congress is informed within 48 hours and under the condition that all forces must be withdrawn if Congress does not grant an extension within 60 days. These provisions are included in the War Powers Resolution passed by Congress in 1973. The resolution was a Congressional reaction to American presidents committing growing numbers of troops to action in Southeast Asia for almost 10 years during the Vietnam Conflict.

Although no legal actions were taken against President Bill Clinton, the bombing campaign against Kosovo in 1999 has been viewed by some lawmakers and scholars as an alleged violation of the War Powers Resolution. The 2011 U.S. intervention in the Libyan Revolution and the 2013 attempt to gain Congressional approval for an intervention in the Syrian Civil War have led to proposed legislation to replace the War Powers Resolution with a new law limiting the President's powers to commit troops abroad.