US to Limit Its Counterterrorism Drone Strikes in Afghanistan

Hash-e-Subh President Biden has signed a classified policy limiting counterterrorism drone strikes outside conventional war zones, tightening rules that President Donald Trump had loosened for a 21st-century method of warfare, the New York Times reported, quoting officials.

The policy, which the White House sent to the Pentagon and the C.I.A. on Friday, institutionalizes a version of temporary limits that Mr. Biden’s team quietly put in place on the day of his inauguration as a stopgap for reducing risks to civilians while the new administration reviewed the counterterrorism policies it had inherited from Mr. Trump.

A description of the policy, along with a classified new counterterrorism strategy memo Mr. Biden has also signed, suggests that amid competing priorities in a turbulent world, the United States intends to launch fewer drone strikes and commando raids away from recognized war zones than it has in the recent past.

The policy requires Mr. Biden’s approval before a suspected terrorist is added to a list of those who can be targeted for “direct action,” in a return to a more centralized control of decisions about targeted killing operations that was a hallmark of President Barack Obama’s second term. Mr. Trump had given commanders in the field greater latitude to decide whom to target.

The New York Times has not seen a copy of the classified document, which officials call the P.P.M., for presidential policy memorandum. But it was described by a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to explain its key aspects.

The Biden administration’s rules apply to strikes in poorly governed places where Islamist militants are active but that the United States does not consider to be “areas of active hostilities.”

Only Iraq and Syria — where U.S. troops and partners are fighting the remnants of the Islamic State — are currently deemed to be conventional war zones where the new rules will not apply and commanders in the field will retain greater latitude to order counterterrorism airstrikes or raids without seeking White House approval, the official said.

That means the rules will limit any such operations in several other countries where the United States has carried out drone strikes in recent years, including Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the tribal region of Pakistan.

In 2002, the CIA used a new armed drone to kill a militant after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Drone strikes increased during the early years of the Obama administration, including in Yemen with the emergence of a dangerous branch of al-Qaeda.

However, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was also killed in one of the US drone attacks in Shirpur area of ​​Kabul.

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