The Trump administration is taking a defiant stance on terrorism. Their polices on immigration are receiving attention at home, but there are other major changes taking place that change the way drone strikes will be carried out overseas.
The latest expansion will include new measures allowing the CIA and military officials to authorize drone strikes in situations that might include civilian casualties.
The administration has redoubled its efforts in Yemen and Somalia, which it has labeled “areas of active hostilities.” In those areas, officials can launch drone strikes even when civilian casualties might be possible.
Now, they’ll have authority to authorize strikes in Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, too.
“Some of the Obama administration rules were getting in the way of good strikes,” said one U.S. official who spoke on the new decision.
Under the Obama administration, rules prevented drone strikes in areas outside of active war zones if there was any chance that there might be civilian casualties. The administration was included in the decision making on strikes outside outside of war zones, and there was a high bar set for these strikes; the targets had to pose an imminent threat to the U.S.
Obama administration officials have sent Secretary of Defense James Mattis a letter Asking that the rights of civilians be respected.
“I am concerned that loosening standards will harm our ability over time to carry out these operations, because it will affect our standing with the countries in which we need to operate,” writes Matt Olsen, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center.
“I think these rules proved effective operationally — I never saw an instance where we missed an opportunity to carry out a strike because of too much lawyering,” Olsen said in an interview with NBC.
While the new rule has struck some as reckless, officials always attempt to limit civilian casualties. Now the commanders can weigh the potential risks against the potential gains. They can also act more quickly on intelligence. That alone seems to justify the change for the Trump team.