A State Department letter says the 2002 measure, coupled with a congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks authorizing military action to prevent future acts of international terrorism against the United States allows indefinite combat operations in Iraq, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The letter was sent to Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., who described the response as an "open-ended, never-ending authority for the administration to be at war in Iraq forever with no limitations."
The statement came in response to lawmakers' demands that the Bush administration submit for congressional approval any agreement with Iraq. U.S. officials will be going to Baghdad with drafts of two documents -- a status-of-forces agreement and a "strategic framework" -- that they anticipate will be signed by the end of July.
Wednesday's statement said the administration's interpretation of the 2002 resolution is that "Congress expressly authorized the use of force to 'defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.'"