Pentagon may get freer rein to fight terror

An Iraqi soldier on Wednesday walking in a tunnel that was used as a training centre by ISIS in Albu Sayf village in Mosul. US military officials want more raids on targets in Yemen linked to terrorist activity.
An Iraqi soldier on Wednesday walking in a tunnel that was used as a training centre by ISIS in Albu Sayf village in Mosul. US military officials want more raids on targets in Yemen linked to terrorist activity.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Proposed move will allow US commanders to act more quickly against militant suspects

WASHINGTON • The White House is considering giving the Pentagon more independent authority to conduct counter-terrorism raids as part of an effort to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other militant organisations, according to administration officials.

Such a step would allow military commanders to move more swiftly against terrorism suspects, streamlining a decision-making process that often dragged on under the Obama administration, frustrating Pentagon officials.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday called the proposal "a philosophy more than a change in policy". He said "the protocol is not changing in terms of what has to be signed off" but added that President Donald Trump believed "these are the experts in the field".

Critics said giving the military more authority could lead to more problematic outcomes like the Special Operations raid in January in Yemen, which left a member of the Navy's Seal Team 6 and about two dozen civilians dead.

It could also leave the Pentagon to take the blame when things go wrong.

But a Defence Department official pointed to comments by Mr Trump about the Yemen raid as a sign that military commanders would be held responsible for botched missions, regardless of whether the President had signed off on them or not.

Mr Trump and Defence Department officials have maintained that the January raid - the first such operation approved by the new President - was successful, saying that valuable intelligence was collected.

Military officials have been advocating an increase in raids in Yemen in particular. On Thursday, the United States resumed its air attacks on targets in Yemen, conducting strikes against several suspected Al-Qaeda sites across the south-central part of the country.

Military officials have been advocating an increase in raids in Yemen in particular. On Thursday, the United States resumed its air attacks on targets in Yemen, conducting strikes against several suspected Al-Qaeda sites across the south-central part of the country.

The coordinated series of attacks occurred in three Yemeni provinces - Abyan, Shabwa and Baydha - that have been linked to terrorist activity, according to the Pentagon.

The strikes were conducted against targets that had been developed before the January raid, a senior official said.

On Monday, Defence Secretary James Mattis presented the White House, under Mr Trump's directive, with a series of options for accelerating the fight against ISIS.

Pentagon officials said while many of the proposals would continue what the US was doing under President Barack Obama, Mr Mattis and senior military commanders want to target not just ISIS, but also Al-Qaeda and other extremist organisations in the Middle East.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Pentagon may get freer rein to fight terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe