When President Donald Trump stated that he wanted to take more aggressive measures against radical Islamic extremists, it appears as if he meant it.
NBC News reported that Trump has loosened Obama-era restrictions on the CIA when it comes to conducting drone strikes against jihadists. This decision is designed to help the United States apply more pressure to radical extremist groups.
Shortly after taking office, President Trump visited CIA headquarters in Quantico. One of the areas he saw was the secure floor where officers carried out drone strikes against suspected terrorists.
According to former and current US officials, the president was impressed by the drone operations. He told CIA Director Mike Pompeo that he wanted them to take a more aggressive approach against jihadist groups in the Middle East.
After the president’s visit, the CIA started carrying out drone attacks that would not have been allowed under Former President Barack Obama. Now, the CIA has more autonomy when deciding when and where they should conduct drone strikes. This means they have more freedom to operate in places like Syria and Yemen without having to consult with the White House first.
According to NBC News, the Trump administration is now considering more policy changes that will remove additional restrictions placed on the CIA by the Obama administration. It will allow the CIA to carry out drone strikes in other countries in and outside of designated war zones. The original restrictions were designed to limit civilian casualties, but it made it harder for the CIA to hamper the efforts of jihadists.
If the Trump administration does remove more restrictions, the CIA will be held to the same standard as the military when it comes to mitigating civilian casualties. The new CIA Director is urging the president to give the CIA more freedom to conduct its operations. He wants Trump to allow them to hit targets in Afghanistan. Currently, only the military is authorized to operate in the country.
The White House is in the process of creating a new policy that would supercede Obama’s playbook. Under Obama, the CIA could not conduct a strike unless analysts determine that there is a near-certainty that no civilian casualties would be sustained. It also prevented the US from imprisoning suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.
Of course, this action is being met with some criticism from those who are concerned about human rights. Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs for Amnesty International USA said,
“By its own admission, the U.S. government’s use of drones has meant the deaths of civilians and there has been insufficient accountability.”
According to NBC News, it is not clear whether or not the CIA’s new freedom would make a large impact on the war on terror. The Obama restrictions do not currently apply in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan. It also does not apply to certain regions of Yemen and Somalia — which are designated war zones.
However, the restrictions are still applicable to Pakistan, Libya, and other sections of North Africa — where ISIS is becoming more powerful. If the CIA is expected to conform to the same rules of engagement as the military, it means they will only launch attacks if the level of civilian casualties are “proportional” to the benefit of military operations.
The removal of the restrictions on the CIA could have a positive impact on our efforts against radical extremism abroad. During the presidential campaign, President Trump repeatedly vowed to take greater action against Islamic extremism. Hopefully, allowing our forces to implement more aggressive strategies against our enemies will reduce threats to Americans and the rest of the Western world.