Shifting from the drone policy of the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) new authority to conduct drone attacks against suspected militants, anonymous U.S. officials said. The new policy is in contrast to that of former President Barack Obama that limited the CIA's paramilitary role, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Under the Obama administration, the CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists and then the military conducted the actual strike. Although Obama pushed for the use of drones, he kept the military in place to conduct the actual strike. During Obama's two terms, a total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen compared to 57 strikes under George W. Bush, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri, al Qaeda's second in command, reportedly was killed Sunday in a drone strike in Syria. Israeli broadcaster Arutz Sheva cited unconfirmed reports saying a U.S. drone strike near al-Mastoumeh in Idlib province killed al-Masri, who has been described as the general deputy to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Video of the aftermath was posted on YouTube by the Smart News Agency. Al-Masri, 59, was in Iranian custody for a dozen years until 2015 when he was released and moved to Syria. Pictures of the car in which al-Masri reportedly was traveling were posted on Twitter.
The next president will inherit the so-called drones "playbook" created by the Obama administration in 2013 that dictated policy on drone strikes, the president's main way of striking against terrorism. The Obama administration claimed that 2,436 people were killed in 473 counter-terrorism strikes between January 2009 and the end of last year. Of those killed, the administration claimed between 64 and 116 were civilians, Vox reported. Trump has taken a particularly hard-line stance on fighting terrorism, including deliberately killing civilian families of terrorists, bringing back waterboarding and putting American terrorism suspects on military trial in a Guantánamo Bay prison.
United States President Barack Obama's administration said Friday that up to 116 civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries where America is not at war. Obama's goal for the release of the numbers is reportedly to create greater transparency about the actions of the U.S. military and CIA in counterterrorism measures against militants plotting attacks against the United States. Even the most conservative estimates by non-governmental organizations that have spent years tallying U.S. strikes in these countries are higher than the ones acknowledged by the administration. Obama also signed an executive order Friday that requires U.S. policies to limit non-combatant casualties and publicizing the number of strikes each year, and combatants and civilians killed.
A U.S. drone strike targeting the Afghan Taliban's commander, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, led to the leadership council meeting Sunday to discuss succession, two Taliban sources told Reuters. Pakistani local residents gather around a destroyed vehicle hit by a drone strike, in which Afghan Taliban Chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was believed to be travelling, in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 100 miles west of Quetta, May 21, 2016. Confirming the attack, reportedly authorized by Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference Sunday, "Yesterday, the United States conducted a precision air strike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border." Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and defense ministry spokesman Daulat Waziri also gave similar statements.