President Donald Trump has significantly increased the number of drone strikes in places the US is not technically at war, according to an analysis from The Daily Beast.
In former President Barack Obama’s first two years in office, the US conducted 186 drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, where the US is engaged in “shadow wars.”
Comparatively, in 2017 and 2018 so far, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes in these countries, The Daily Beast reported. The report is based on data provided by US Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has tracked US drone strikes for years.
In 2017 alone, Trump oversaw 130 drone strikes in Yemen, more than three times the year prior.
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Drone strikes in Pakistan have decreased significantly overall in recent years as the country’s relationship with the US has deteriorated, which was linked in part to America’s drone campaign there. Obama oversaw 128 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010, for example, but that number dropped to just three in his final year in office. There’s been a modest increase in drone strikes in Pakistan under Trump: five in 2017 but just one so far in 2018.
But there’s been a particularly notable increase in strikes in Somalia. In 2017, Trump oversaw 35 drone strikes in Somalia, which is more than the total number of strikes Obama presided over in the country during his tenure (33). In 2018 so far, the US has conducted 32 strikes in Somalia.
The increase in strikes in these countries is seemingly linked to Trump’s easing of restrictions on drone strikes, the report stated, which were put in place by Obama in order to reduce civilian casualties. Trump has also presided over a massive increase in spending on Hellfire missiles, which are used by armed drones.
“Under the Trump administration, the Air Force is spending more on the Hellfire missiles used by armed drones,” according to The Daily Beast report. “Even as the wars in Iraq and Syria wind down, the Trump administration has sought to purchase more drone missiles. Air Force budget documents show a 63 percent increase in Hellfire purchases in Trump’s 2017 budget and another 20 percent increase in the most recent budget request.”
Read more: Obama on US drone strikes: ‘Civilians have been killed that shouldn’t have been’
President Barack Obama’s use of drones and drone strikes was among the most controversial aspects of his presidency, particularly due to the civilian casualties they caused. Under pressure to combat terrorism but reluctant to commit to more boots on the ground on foreign soil, Obama saw drones and drone strikes as an ostensible solution.
The first drone strike under Obama occurred just three days into his presidency, and he continued to rely on them throughout his time in the White House – far more than his predecessor.
Foreign policy scholars and experts on conflict have often argued America’s use of drones in the so-called “war on terror” serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists. In 2010, a man who attempted to bomb Times Square cited US drone strikes as his motivation.