On Tuesday, the White House admitted that the set of standards aimed at preventing civilian deaths due to U.S. Airstrikes would not apply to the current operations in Iraq and Syria.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the standards, which were implemented by President Obama in 2013, “would likely cut the number of strikes by establishing that Americans must be directly threatened, applying the standards for targeting Americans to all strikes, and saying there needs to be near-certainty that no civilians would be killed.”
The policy was put in place in response to criticism of the Obama administration and the many drone strikes it called for in Pakistan and Yemen.
Yahoo News reported that the White House only acknowledged that they were straying from the set standards, after they received multiple questions about reports that “as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.”
Although the village of Kafr Daryan was originally said to be a stronghold of the Khorasan group, a political member of the Free Syrian Army, Abu Abdo Salabman, said that after witnessing several bodies of women and children being removed from the rubble, and taken away in ambulances, he believed the strike was “a big mistake.”
When asked about the airstrike, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, said that the Pentagon would “take all credible allegations seriously,” but that President Obama’s strict policy on airstrikes “does not cover the current U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.”
Hayden insisted that the policy promising “near certainty” that there would be no civilian deaths only applied when the United States took direct action “outside areas of active hostilities,” and that the current state in both Iraq and Syria did not fit that description.
Regarding the exception in policy, Harold Koh, who was the State Department’s top lawyer during Obama’s first term, that said the White House seems to be creating a “grey zone.”
“If we’re not applying the strict rules [to prevent civilian casualties] to Syria and Iraq, then they are of relatively limited value,” Koh said.