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By Saagar Enjeti
The Trump administration has given the U.S. military significantly more leeway to use whatever means it sees fit in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, senior officials say, in stark contrast to the Obama administration.
“There’s nothing formal, but it is beginning to take shape,” a senior U.S. defense told The Wall Street Journal. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are.”
President Trump’s new approach is perhaps best demonstrated in the U.S. decision to drop the largest non-nuclear device in the military’s arsenal — “the mother of all bombs” — on the Islamic State in Afghanistan Thursday. The blast ignited a media sensation, and killed nearly 100 ISIS fighters.
“It’s not the same as it was, you don’t have to ask us before you drop a MOAB,” a senior military official told TheWSJ, using the acronym for the large bomb. “Technically there’s no piece of paper that says you have to ask the president to drop a MOAB. But last year this time, the way [things were] meant, ‘I’m going to drop a MOAB, better let the White House know.’”
Top U.S. General in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson emphasized to reporters that he is the one of made the decision to drop the MOAB. “It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield,” Nicholson insisted.
Trump himself told reporters Thursday that he has given the military “total authorization.” Trump has also removed White House reviews of U.S. strikes in countries like Yemen and Somalia. Trump designated Yemen and Somalia as an “active areas of hostilities” in March, which allows the Pentagon to aggressively target al-Qaida without White House approval.
Trump has also considered changing the way the U.S. 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.
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