As President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan nears completion, his administration still hasn’t finalized its policy for pursuing terrorists in the country once US troops have departed.
While the US military will retain authority to carry out strikes against the Taliban in support of Afghan forces, as CNN reported on Friday, that authority does not necessarily extend to counter-terrorism operations in the country against those suspected of planning attacks against the US homeland or allies.
For years, the CIA and US military have had broad authority to kill suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, targeting decisions that could be made by senior military and intelligence officials and did not always need final sign off by the White House.
But as Biden prepares to end the war, his National Security Council is studying whether to raise the bar for the CIA and the Pentagon to carry out deadly drone strikes and commando raids once US troops are gone, according to people familiar with the matter.
Sources tell CNN that the Biden administration is also still debating whether to remove the combat zone designation for Afghanistan — a technical distinction that in recent years has greatly impacted how freely the US uses lethal drone strikes and commando raids in a given country.
Under the Trump administration, commanders in the field were authorized to make targeting decisions under their own authority in countries like Yemen and Somalia, in addition to Afghanistan. But the Biden administration is reviewing the rules there as well, and it remains to be seen if the administration will put Afghanistan on a similar footing or implement specific criteria