This intermittent combat activity has been driven by the emergence of armed drone technology and the propensity of transnational terrorist groups to operate from poorly governed spaces or failed states where there are few or no US troops. on the ground, but also no effective local government with a police force, including the tribal region of Pakistan, rural Yemen and parts of Somalia and Libya.
Drone strikes began under the administration of George W. Bush and exploded during Barack Obama’s first term – with political and legal battles over reports of civilian casualties and, in 2011, deliberate murder by the government of ‘US citizen suspected of terrorism, Anwar al-Awlaki, without trial.
In May 2013, Mr. Obama imposed a set of rules designed to govern these operations and limit their excessive use. This required a high-level interagency review to determine whether a terrorist suspect posed a threat to Americans, as well as a “virtual certainty” that no civilian would be killed.
In October 2017, Mr. Trump replaced Mr. Obama’s system with a more relaxed and decentralized one. It allowed operators in the field to decide to target suspects on the basis of their status as members of a terrorist group, rather than on the basis of their threats as individuals, and as long as the conditions set out in the principles general operations of this area were met. .
Many Obama-era national security officials have returned to the Biden administration, raising hopes that Mr. Trump’s changes would at least be partly reversed. Still, some military and intelligence professionals have angered under Mr. Obama’s system, saying it was too bureaucratic, according to people familiar with internal deliberations.
The Trump administration has not made public that it developed a new framework for drone strikes in 2017, although The Times reported on its existence and some of its main features at the time. Mr Bossert said he then pushed unsuccessfully to declassify and make public his key elements.
“I suggested that the relevant parts of the policy be declassified – up front,” he said. “My suggestion was not followed. Nonetheless, this debate and our fundamental principles of valuing the innocent life, while taking only the most harm, should always be opened to the light of day. “