Trump Policy Change Increases Efficiency of Fight

By General Jack Keane

General Keane, a four-star general, retired after 37 years of service which culminated in his appointment as acting Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army.  General Keane is president of GSI Consulting and serves as chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, and a former and recent member of the Secretary of Defense Policy Board.  In 2018, General Keane was the first military leader to be honored with the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award and in 2020, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump at the White House.

The U.S.-led coalition’s battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has crossed significant milestones this year, supporting the final liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces this July, and helping allied Syrian Democratic Forces to make swift gains in Raqqa with nearly 80 percent of the city now cleared. However, there has been a cost to these operations in the form of increased civilian casualties. U.S. Central Command has acknowledged roughly 600 unintentional civilian deaths over the three- year long war against ISIS, but the independent UK-based monitor group Airwars claims that this number may be over 5,000, and they claim that nearly 60 percent of these deaths have taken place under the Trump Administration alone. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff about what might be causing this spike in civilian casualties and how the authorizations for military strikes under the Trump Administration differ from the Obama Administration.

The Cipher Brief: In April, President Trump said that he has given the military “total authorization” to pursue combat operations abroad. In your mind, how has this approach differed from the Obama Administration’s strike authorization process, particularly in the coalition fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria?

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