Biden’s new counterterror strategy puts limits on drone use

US President Joe Biden in his office. Photo published by the White House on July 9, 2022.

US President Joe Biden on Friday formally issued new guidance curtailing the use of armed drones outside of war zones as part of a new counterterrorism strategy that places a greater priority on protecting civilian lives.

Associated Press quoted a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified memoranda that the new policies require presidential approval before a suspected terrorist is added to the US government’s target list for potential lethal action, including drone strikes and special operations raids.

The new guidance returns US policies to where they were at the end of the Obama administration, the AP report said.

The guidance also reverses former US President Donald Trump’s more permissive rules that allowed lower-level officials more leeway when launching deadly strikes.

“President Biden’s formal counterterrorism guidance directs his administration to be discerning and agile in protecting Americans against evolving global terrorist challenges,” said White House Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall in a statement.

This comes as US killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul in late July. In a drone strike in Kabul on August 29, 2021, at least 10 civilians were killed.

The policy change was first reported by The New York Times.