(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is seeking authority from the White House to carry out covert drone attacks in Afghanistan and other war zones, along with the Pentagon, which has so far the lead role for conducting such airstrikes in the country.
Citing current and former intelligence and military officials, The New York Times reported on Friday that President Donald Trump favors granting the CIA greater authority to take on a more direct role in fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
According to the sources, CIA Director Mike Pompeo has in recent weeks made a forceful case to Trump that the restrictions imposed on the agency during the administration of former President Barack Obama has limited the US’s ability to conduct “counter-terrorism operations.”
Obama imposed the restrictions in part to limit civilian casualties, the report said.
Pompeo suggested earlier this week that Trump favors granting the spy agency greater authority to go after militants. “When we’ve asked for more authorities, we’ve been given it. When we ask for more resources, we get it.”
If approved, it would be the first time the CIA would have the power to conduct such attacks in Afghanistan. The agency has been conducting such airstrikes across the border in Pakistan for about a decade.
Critics say, the Trump administration—if approve the proposal— would open the way for broader air strikes in such countries as Libya, Somalia and Yemen, where the United States says its is fighting the ISIS terror group, al-Qaeda or both.
The Pentagon, which has until now, had the role for conducting such strikes, expressed concern over the proposal, saying American troops on the ground in Afghanistan could end up bearing the burden of any CIA attacks that would kill civilians, the Times said.
The CIA has so for failed to acknowledge its drone attacks, which usually claim the lives of civilians, including children in Pakistan. Islamabad says the drone strikes violate its sovereignty. Washington, however, accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants.
Late last month, Trump pledged to take tougher line with Pakistan and made it clear that he was going to increase the US military presence in Afghanistan. He admitted that his "original instinct was to pull out" but he has changed his mind.
A senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA, Zeke Johnson, said in a statement that “the last thing the US should be doing right now is expanding a global, secret killing program.”
“By its own admission, the US government’s use of drones has meant the deaths of civilians and there has been insufficient accountability,” Johnson added.
Trump’s plans to step up air strikes on militants in Afghanistan risks increasing civilian casualties.