President Donald Trump launched at least 161 strikes in Yemen and Somalia during his first year in office, the Bureau’s latest figures show – more than triple the number carried out the year before.
This means there were over 100 times more strikes in Yemen and more than 30 times as many strikes in Somalia during President Trump’s first year in office than during his predecessor, Barack Obama’s.
Obama carried out a single strike in Yemen and one in Somalia during his first year as president. However, by the end of his two terms, Obama had embraced the US drone programme and carried out far more strikes than his predecessor President George W Bush. Strikes in Pakistan were in their hundreds, and yearly strike totals in Yemen and Somalia had reached double digits.
President Trump inherited the framework allowing US aircraft to hit suspected terrorists outside of declared battlefields from Obama. His administration has largely stuck within the framework set by the previous administration.
The vast majority of the 126 strikes that have hit Yemen since Trump’s inauguration followed reports in March 2017 of the Trump administration declaring parts of the country areas of “active hostilities”.
This effectively side-stepped measures introduced by Obama that meant strikes in areas of countries that were not active war-zones, such as Pakistan and Yemen, had to go through an elaborate sign-off process with the White House. In Yemen, 30 strikes hit within a month of the declaration being reported – nearly as many as the whole of 2016.
In Somalia, the Obama administration officially designated the al Shabaab group as an al Qaeda affiliate at the end of November 2016, essentially widening who could be targeted. In March, it was also reported that parts of Somalia had been declared areas of “active hostilities”, but there was no increase in strikes until July 2017, with 33 of the 35 strikes carried under President Trump taking place since then.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the number of weapons dropped is now approaching levels last seen during the 2009-2012 surge, despite combat operations officially ending in December 2014.
In November last year, US forces began hitting Taliban drugs labs in Helmand. General Nicholson, commander of US Forces – Afghanistan, said the strikes were carried out under new authorities provided under President Trump’s eagerly awaited South Asia strategy.
The Bureau counted five strikes confirmed in Pakistan during Trump’s first year in office. At least four air operations were also reported along the Afghan-Pakistan border in October and November, although it was unclear on what side of the border they fell.
At its height in 2010, the CIA drone programme hit 128 targets in Pakistan. Strikes fell with each passing year after that, falling to just three in 2016.
|Country||Strikes since Trump’s inauguration|
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Main photo: President Trump on the South Asia strategy during a press conference on August 21 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)