The Pentagon has confirmed that US President Joe Biden has set new rules on how the US military and intelligence services can conduct drone strikes and commando raids in foreign lands, restoring the kind of control over the decision-making process that former president Donald Trump scrapped.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that the new rules represented “interim guidance” that was issued “to ensure the president has full visibility on proposed, significant actions, which the National Security Council will review.”
Kirby added that the new rules were part of a broader review by the Biden administration into the legal and policy frameworks that govern when and how those missions take place outside of parts of the world that are clearly defined as war zones, like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
“It’s too early to come to grips with what reality is going to be, or the impact it’s going to have on specific parts of the world or on specific terrorist groups,” Kirby said.
“It’s interim. It’s not meant to be permanent, and it doesn’t mean it’s a cessation” of the drone and commando strikes, he added. “The authorities in some parts of the world are going to get visibility at the National Security Council.”
The New York Times first reported last week that Biden had secretly limited assassination drone strikes away from the war zones, requiring military and intelligence operators to gain higher-level approval as a stopgap measure to tighten the loosened Trump-era assassination activities and airstrikes.
During Trump’s presidency, the supervision, policy standards, and procedures for using lethal force outside designated war zones that his predecessor Barack Obama had put in place in a 2013 order were removed.
According to that order, a suspect had to pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to Americans to be the target of assassinations outside a US war zone.
Military and intelligence operators complained that under that system, policy limitations had become a cause for too much lawyering and interminable meetings.
Obama devised that system after the number of deadly US drone strikes under his own presidency soared, prompting international outcry over the civilian deaths in those operations.
The United Nations (UN) and other organizations have criticized the US drone strikes as unlawful, condemning assassinations and saying US militarism is out of control.
Last month, Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN warned of the unchecked tendency by some countries to use deadly force under the pretext of exercising their right to self-defense, referring to the assassination by the US of Iran’s Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.
“If unchecked, the right to self-defense will not only be abused more frequently by such states, but also they will institute further exceptions to the principle of the prohibition of the threat or use of force,” Majid Takht-Ravanchi was quoted by media as saying in an address to the UN Security Council in New York. He pointed to the assassination of General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, in Iraq as a gross violation of the basic norms and principles of international law. The US military assassinated General Soleimani and his companions in Iraq on January 3, 2020.