For years, the CIA and U.S. military have had extensive authority to kill suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, targeting decisions that can be made by senior military and intelligence officials and do not always require a final signature by the White House.
But as Biden prepares to end the war, his National Security Council is considering whether to ban the CIA and Pentagon from carrying out deadly drone strikes and commando strikes after the US military leaves.
Sources told CNN that there is still debate over whether the Biden administration will remove the battlefield status for Afghanistan – a technical difference that has affected how freely the United States has used deadly drone strikes and commando strikes on a designated country in recent years.
Under the Trump administration, field commanders had the right to make targeted decisions on their own authority in countries such as Yemen and Somalia, in addition to Afghanistan. But the Beadon administration is also reviewing the rules there, and it remains to be seen whether the administration will take similar action against Afghanistan or implement specific criteria for terrorists once it is removed.
“It feels like when we end our engagement in Afghanistan we need to apply some version of the rules that would apply elsewhere,” said Bobby Chesney, director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Lee. Texas. “One way to look at it is to move away from Afghanistan as a war-waiting theater and part of the parcel.”
So far, the NSC talks – which involve a wide-ranging study by Pentagon and CIA authorities around the world – are in the early stages, officials familiar with the job told CNN, and options have not yet been provided to senior White House officials for final review.
This current uncertainty has paralyzed the military and the CIA as they await updated directions on what kind of deadly strikes they need to carry out after the announcement of the end of the Biden war.
White House Press Secretary Jane Sasaki told reporters Wednesday that the United States should work with countries that share our interest in resettling serious external conspiracies arising out of Afghanistan, but noted that Afghan security forces should withdraw after the withdrawal of US troops. Stay “led”.
People familiar with the matter say that, internally, CIA officials are uncertain about what will happen after the withdrawal of future operations in Afghanistan. Agency officials are watching the security situation on the ground very closely as the predictions about Afghanistan’s stability become more serious over time.
“The security situation is not right now,” Scott Miller, Afghanistan’s top US general, told reporters on Tuesday.
Lawmakers raise questions
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and former officials on Capitol Hill have consistently raised concerns about how the United States plans to prevent potential threats to its homeland and to gather intelligence once the plan is completed.
New Jersey Democrat Rep. Of the House Armed Services Committee. Andy Kim told CNN this week that there have been some initial discussions between lawmakers and administration officials about how the United States will conduct counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, but he has not yet seen what powers both secret and non-secret will provide – and what authority they will have. That’s what it says.
The current NSC review is designed to answer those few questions. Discussing how to empower Afghanistan’s CIA and military, Biden highlighted his efforts to “end” the fight against the opposition that is still fighting.
From what parameters are finally imposed, the Biden administration can indicate how committed it is to “ending America’s perpetual war.”
“Will we continue to attack al Qaeda? Will we still have the legal right to attack the Taliban without seeing a direct threat from the United States?” Asked Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in defense and foreign policy at The Brookings Institution. “This will be the verdict of the Beadon administration. It will be more of a political decision.”
For months, the Biden administration has been reviewing its standards for military and CIA strikes on terrorism hotspots around the world, such as Somalia and Yemen, which have been disputed for years as “areas of active hostility.” That comprehensive review is not over yet, and the White House is already tightening its grip on the agency’s deadly activities around the world.
If the reviews put Afghanistan under the same guidelines as a conventional battlefield, it would not change the CIA’s legal authority to conduct strikes in Afghanistan. The U.S. military’s air strike authority will also be under approval for the 2001 war for al Qaeda and ISIS. However, it may have practical limitations in the application of force there.
One option under review is to set new criteria for what the CIA can target – membership of a terrorist group such as Al Qaeda or ISIS will not be an automatic basis for strikes under the new policy, sources said – and the agency’s permission level will be required before the strike. The new structure under consideration requires a more thorough cross-examination process and greater White House involvement before the CIA can conduct a deadly operation in Afghanistan.
A practical problem
Another source told CNN that as part of the withdrawal, the CIA would lose a lot if not all of the bases it used in the past for drone programs.
The source said that especially since there are no American bases in any country bordering Afghanistan, the target is not only for targeted strikes, but also for intelligence agencies, surveillance and necessary efforts to support the resumption of hostilities.
“I’m more concerned about the US capabilities than the authorities,” O’Hanlon said. “I don’t think there is a possibility of Taliban takeover in the whole country. But there will be some places where the Afghan government has lost access to the positions it currently controls. And it will show some dark spots on the radar screen.”
CIA Director Bill Burns admitted to lawmakers earlier this year that the withdrawal would affect the CIA’s ability to gather intelligence, and National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan echoed that assessment in an interview with CNN in April.
Sullivan said at the time, “It is true that the CIA director said that we would not have an equal presence where we were, when we had 3,000 troops or 30,000 troops or 10,000 troops.” However he acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and called for an end to the violence.
What that capability should look like is still unclear. During the administration’s significant discussions on conducting counterterrorism missions away from the administration, one said that they would not be nearly as effective as the current U.S. strike capability and that the agency’s commitment would be more costly. Sources familiar with the ongoing discussion.
Sources said the targets in Afghanistan have also become more elusive, and the resources needed to maintain the presence and conduct these activities, especially against lower-level actors, are now not considered appropriate by many for the administration.
The source familiar with the ongoing discussion said, “Every shot against a high-priced target or some low-level operative is basically the same.
As the administration continues to work through a number of logical challenges on this front, Kim said it would be worthwhile to review the criteria for how to set high-value targets as part of this discussion will have less resources to address it.
Referring to the deadly strikes carried out by both the Pentagon and the CIA, he said, “When you have little ISR power and little strike power, what they can target will naturally create pressure.”
“So they must try to compress it with their highest priority, to make sure it is being used effectively.”
CNN’s Oren Lieberman contributed to this report.