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Trump outpacing Obama in drone strikes; 80 in first year: Report

The Washington Times
Friday June 8, 2018

President Trump is outpacing his predecessor in the number of U.S. drone strikes abroad and has made it easier for the CIA to use the craft to eliminate targets, according to a new study released Thursday — but specialists warn the use of the unmanned killing machines remains shrouded in secrecy with rules of engagement that haven’t been publicly explained.

The comprehensive report from the nonpartisan Stimson Center examined U.S. drone policy since Sept. 11, 2001, and found that the steady rise in the frequency of drone strikes during former President Barack Obama’s tenure has continued since Mr. Trump came to power. During his eight years in office, Mr. Obama authorized roughly 550 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other nations in which the U.S. wasn’t explicitly at war.

In just his first 12 months, Mr. Trump green-lighted at least 80 strikes in those countries and “is on pace to surpass the strike tempo of both of his predecessors, which perhaps signals a great willingness to use lethal force,” the survey says.

The figures do not include military action in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. has has a formal military presence for more than a decade, and the strikes in countries such as Yemen and Somalia are typically overseen by the CIA, not the Pentagon.

Analysts argue that one reason for the uptick in the use of drones could be the Trump administration’s relaxation of the rules governing drone strikes. The administration reportedly has lessened the certainty required about a target’s whereabouts before launching a drone strike, and has declared parts of Yemen and Somalia to be area of “active hostilities,” which allow greater flexibility in the use of drones.


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