The Obama administration has exempted its current military campaign in Syria and Iraq from strict standards imposed last year aimed at preventing civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, Yahoo News reported Tuesday.
The White House intended the standard of "near certainty" that civilians wouldn't be killed to apply "only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as we noted at the time," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told Yahoo. "That description -- outside areas of active hostilities -- simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."
The announcement came in response to questions regarding reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a U.S. missile struck a Syrian village on Sept. 23. The administration carried out a missile attack against an obscure al Qaeda cell called the Khorasan Group on that day due to what administration officials claimed to be an "imminent threat" posed to the United States. Hayden told Yahoo that while the U.S. disputes claims of civilian casualties, the administration is investigating the reports.
Yahoo reports: "While the White House has said little about the standards it is using for strikes in Syria and Iraq, one former official who has been briefed on the matter said the looser policy gives more discretion to theater commanders at the U.S. Central Command to select targets without the same level of White House oversight."