President Biden on Friday issued guidance requiring presidential approval for drone strikes outside of Iraq and Syria, which are the only two countries officially recognized as active US war zones.
This means that drone strikes in countries like Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan would need to be approved by President Biden. The guidance comes as the US has stepped up its air war against al-Shabaab and Somalia.
But the guidance has a loophole by allowing strikes to be ordered without White House approval in the name of “self-defense” of US troops or other partner forces. Many US airstrikes in Somalia in recent months were claimed to be done in defense of Somali government forces.
The policy also requires presidential approval before adding a suspected terrorist to a US government kill list. Being included on the list means that a person could be targeted by a drone strike or a special operations raid.
The guidance reverses moves by the Trump administration to loosen the rules for drone strikes, which gave lower-level officials more leeway. Biden ordered a review of the counterterrorism strategy when he first came into office. Around that time, he was said to temporarily impose the limits that were formalized on Friday.