The new rules limit military commanders’ autonomy regarding targeted killings outside war zones
© Getty Images / Veronique de Viguerie
The Biden administration has revised its policy on counterterrorism drone strikes outside war zones in an effort to minimize casualties, a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity told the New York Times on Friday, citing a classified strategy memo signed by the president.
The new policy does not apply to combat operations in Iraq and Syria, which remain classed as war zones by the administration as the US is allegedly still fighting remnants of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group there. However, the new rules will limit US action in hotspots like Yemen and Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, where Washington officially ended its involvement last year but which remains wracked with conflict.
Under the new policy, the president’s approval will be required to add a suspected terrorist to the list of those who can be targeted for death from above, and any such target must be considered a “continuing and imminent threat to US persons,” the official said. “Signature strikes,” in which a person can be remotely killed just because the drone operator thinks their behavior resembles that of a terrorist, are technically rendered off-limits, though a loophole allowing “self-defense” strikes on behalf of partner forces remains open.