Bringing back the free-fire zones of Vietnam (because it worked so well last time)
In the NY Times Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt discuss a Trump administration initiative that should give new life to terrorist recruiting:
The Trump administration is exploring how to dismantle or bypass Obama-era constraints intended to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks, commando raids and other counterterrorism missions outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.
Already, President Trump has granted a Pentagon request to declare parts of three provinces of Yemen to be an “area of active hostilities” where looser battlefield rules apply. That opened the door to a Special Operations raid in late January in which several civilians were killed, as well as to the largest-ever series of American airstrikes targeting Yemen-based Qaeda militants, starting nearly two weeks ago, the officials said.
Mr. Trump is also expected to sign off soon on a similar Pentagon proposal to designate parts of Somalia to be another such battlefield-style zone for 180 days, removing constraints on airstrikes and raids targeting people suspected of being militants with the Qaeda-linked group the Shabab, they said.
Inside the White House, the temporary suspension of the limits for parts of Yemen and Somalia is seen as a test run while the government considers whether to more broadly rescind or relax the Obama-era rules, said the officials, who described the internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity.
The move to open the throttle on using military force — and accept a greater risk of civilian casualties — in troubled parts of the Muslim world comes as the Trump administration is also trying to significantly increase military spending and cut foreign aid and State Department budgets.
The proposal to cut so-called soft-power budgets, however, is meeting with stiff resistance from some senior Republicans on Capitol Hill, as well as from top active-duty and retired generals and admirals, who fear perpetual conflicts if the root causes of instability and terrorism are not addressed.
“Any budget we pass that guts the State Department’s budget, you will never win this war,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said during a hearing last week. Referring to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, he added, “As a matter of fact, ISIL will be celebrating.”
In a sign of mounting concern over the government’s policy review, more than three dozen members of America’s national security establishment have urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to maintain the thrust of the Obama-era principles for counterterrorism missions, saying strict standards should be maintained for using force outside traditional war zones.
The former officials, in a letter sent on Sunday to Mr. Mattis, warned that . . .
I thought Stephen Bannon read history?
This story does not, unfortunately, belong to the good-news collection. I suppose Trump has not resumed the program of torture, so that’s good news. Subject to change.