Counter-terrorism operations outside of active war zones under President Donald Trump are outpacing the Obama administration by nearly five times, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Micah Zenko said July 31.
The US has launched at least 100 counter-terrorism operations since Trump took office. Zenko compared this number to the mere 21 operations launched under former President Barack Obama in his last six months in office. These operations include raids by US special operators, drone strikes, and other lethal actions.
An MQ-9 Reaper, loaded with four GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs is ready for a training mission March 31, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. USAF photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen.
The majority of the operations listed in Zenko's analysis occurred in Yemen where the US is actively battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. Trump declared Yemen an "area of active hostilities" after taking office, which allows the military to carry out counter-terrorism strikes without going through a White House-led approval process.
Zenko's previous April analysis revealed that the US averaged approximately one counter-terrorism strike per day in the first 74 days of Trump's presidency. "There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are," a senior US defense official said of the Trump administration in April.
Trump has also considered changing the way the US targets terrorists in drone strikes. The new rules would instead target terrorists under military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties, as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.