Donald Trump relaxed the rules for counter-terrorism operations outside war zones and gave more control to commanders on the ground when he took over the White House.
Joe Biden’s government on Friday debunked a series of rules secretly enacted by his predecessor in 2017 that are now under review by the White House to see if they should be tightened.
The 11-page document revealed how Trump gave commanders the authority to carry out attacks – such as drone strikes and commando raids – if they fit within a broad set of operational principles, including a ‘near certainty’ requirement, there would be no damage. happen to civilians.
The rules were flexible when it came to exceptions, namely that ‘variations’ could be made ‘where necessary’.
Trump’s policies marked a dramatic departure from the bureaucratic approach of his predecessor Barack Obama, who had put in place strict controls after criticizing the frequency and secrecy of attacks during his first term.
Donald Trump relaxed rules for counter-terrorism operations outside war zones and gave more control to ground commanders when he took over the White House
The Biden administration on Friday unveiled counter-terrorism rules – such as drone strikes and commando raids – secretly enacted by Trump in 2017 (photo file)
A district judge in New York ordered the release of the rules in October in response to lawsuits over the Freedom of Information Act by The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Some passages were censored in the final version released to prosecutors on Friday entitled, “Principles, Standards, and Procedures for US Direct Action Against Terrorist Targets.”
The rules allow for direct US action against legitimately targeted terrorists “ whose removal, either independently or as part of a wider campaign, is considered reasonably necessary for US efforts to address the threat posed by the terrorist group. ‘.
They state, “The United States will continue to take extraordinary steps to ensure with near certainty that non-combatants are not injured or killed in operations, using all reasonably available information and controls.”
At the heart of the rules discussion is a section that reads, “Changes to the provisions in this section may be made as necessary” – as long as they adhere to other laws and guidelines.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne declined to comment on the rules, but told the US Times: “We let the previous government talk about their policy.”
Biden had suspended Trump-era rules on his first day of work and passed new policies requiring the White House to approve proposed strikes outside the war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Biden had suspended Trump-era rules on his first term and passed a new policy requiring the White House to approve proposed strikes outside war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
His administration also launched a review of both Trump and Barack Obama’s policies to see how well they worked and what changes should be made in the Biden era.
Officials said the review found that Trump’s strike rules often made exceptions to the “ near-certainty ” rule of avoiding civilian casualties – especially when it came to adult men.
Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, quashed the rules, telling the Times that they had “removed even the minimal safeguards President Obama had laid down in his rules for deadly strikes outside of recognized conflict.”
“Secretive and inexplicable use of deadly force is unacceptable in a rights-respecting democracy, and this program is a cornerstone of the“ eternal wars ”that President Biden has pledged to end. He must do that, ”said Kaufman.
Thomas P. Bossert, one of Trump’s top counterterrorism advisers who helped oversee the development of the rules between the different agencies in 2017, defended the policy, saying it “ should not be rejected or replaced without careful consideration and an investigation of the results it has yielded ‘.
“I stay behind the policies I helped produce,” Bossert told the Times. “They were informed by American values, the principles of the laws of armed conflict, and adapted to combat the real and current threat to America and its allies.”
A review found that Trump’s rules on strikes often made exceptions to the ‘near certainty’ rule to avoid civilian casualties – especially when it came to adult men (photo on file)
The Times reported that Biden’s review and deliberations on a new direct action policy, originally expected to last 60 days, are likely to be extended to six months.
Officials familiar with the policy discussions said they were complicated by Biden’s recent decision to withdraw all 2,500 remaining US troops from Afghanistan by the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks this fall.
That withdrawal was officially launched on Saturday when the US lost control of a major air base, Camp Antonik.
It remains unclear where the US will base regional assets such as drones after the withdrawal, which would make operations in Afghanistan subject to the rules of unconventional war zones.
Counter-terrorism strikes outside of conventional war zones became commonplace under President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and continued through Obama’s first term in office.
In 2013, Obama introduced a new set of rules to curtail such operations – subjecting any proposed strike to a high-level inter-institutional review to determine a target’s risk.
Shortly after taking office, Trump replaced Obama’s system in October 2017 with a more flexible and decentralized system of his own, as outlined in the rules released Friday.
Trump’s system allowed commanders in the field to decide whether to attack suspects based on their membership in terrorist groups, rather than the threat they posed as individuals.
Experts say they expect Biden to come up with his own system that is tighter than Trump’s, but less bureaucratic than Obama’s.