President Donald Trump is considering delegating authority for high level anti-terrorist operations to the Pentagon, the Daily Beast reports.
The policy lies in stark contrast to President Barack Obama, who insisted on personally reviewing each raid even if the operation was time sensitive. The new proposal would instead give Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to launch time sensitive anti-terrorist operations independently, even in places that the U.S. does not have a declared combat mission.
Trump would still assume authority for the raids in one of the options under White House consideration, which would give Mattis the designated responsibility to act freely in fast moving situations. These would include drone strikes against agreed upon targets, counter-terrorism raids, or a hostage situation.
Obama administration officials noted to the Beast that these fast moving situations often have major geopolitical consequences. A botched U.S. raid in semi-friendly countries like Yemen or Pakistan could escalate into a larger military confrontation, or endanger other U.S. diplomatic initiatives.
Obama famously heavily restricted U.S. rules of engagement against terrorist groups, even in active war zones. Trump repeatedly criticized these policies throughout the 2016 campaign, and has already loosened rules of engagement for U.S. troops in Iraq assisting the fight against the Islamic State.
Mattis confirmed to reporters Feb. 20 that U.S. special operators were embedded with Iraqi units in the fight against ISIS in Mosul. U.S. commanders in Iraq told Military Times the current pace of operations against ISIS was unimaginable under the Obama administration.
Pentagon officials also delivered the White House a range of options Monday to defeat ISIS, after a 30 day review ordered in January. These options could range from increasing the number of U.S. ground troops in the middle east, to increasing the pace of airstrikes, along with a long term plan to ensure a similar group does not rise in its stead.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience Friday. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”
He added that the plan will be to coordinate with several other U.S. government agencies.
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