During a meeting with the chief of the CIA's drone unit, President Trump reportedly asked why drone strikes don't target families of terrorism suspects, according to the Washington Post. Trump openly supported killing the family members of suspected terrorists during his presidential campaign as well, although it's unclear whether he's actually commissioned any such strikes since taking office. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment on the Post's report.
According to the nonprofit war monitoring group Airwars, civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have tripled since Trump took office.
The Post reports that Trump "seemed unimpressed" when he was told that the CIA had developed drone technology intended to limit civilian casualties. Later, he was reportedly shown a video clip of a previous drone strike in which the CIA waited until a suspect had left the immediate vicinity of their family before ordering the strike.
"Why did you wait?" Trump reportedly asked.
That comment, if true, is not surprising. In an interview with Fox & Friends in 2015, Trump said that "when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families."
"They care about their lives, don't kid yourself," Trump said. "When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families." In that same interview, Trump criticized President Obama for "fighting a very politically correct war" against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Although precise numbers are difficult and often impossible to come by, Airwars reports that coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have killed a minimum of 6,238 civilians — more than twice the number of Americans who died in the attacks of September 11th.
According to the Post, Trump has butted heads with generals and other military leaders over the questions of how, and for how long, America should go about fighting wars in the Middle East. Trump reportedly favors the idea of wars that begin and end quickly, with immense firepower and swift, unambiguous victory — an idea some senior military leaders find unfeasible.
“We’ve had a tremendous military success against ISIS, as you know. It's close to 100 percent,” the president said during a meeting with Baltic leaders earlier in the week. “I want to get out, I want to bring our troops back home."
But many generals think this is an unrealistic objective for any U.S. president waging war in the Middle East.
“Victory is sort [of] an elusive concept in that part of the world,” Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the Post. “Anyone who goes in and tries to achieve a decisive victory is going to come away disappointed.” Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy told the Post that "winning is more of a continuum" than a clear, binary achievement.
According to the Post report, however, Trump has been insistent that military leaders ramp up the intensity of America's bombing campaigns against ISIS. Two sources told the Post that Trump ordered his generals to start arming its drones in Syria, stressing that "if you can do it in 10 days, get it done."
Since taking office, Trump has sought to eliminate limits that President Obama placed on drone strikes, according to various reports. On his first day as president, Trump authorized the CIA to conduct drone strikes again, the Wall Street Journal reported, reversing an Obama-era policy of restricting such strikes to the Pentagon. Then in September, the New Times reported that Trump is considering rolling back two more of Obama's drone strike rules: One that requires the military to only target senior terrorist suspects and another that mandates extensive vetting of targets before drone strikes are carried out.
While running for president, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton's presumed eagerness to go to war, calling her "trigger happy" on the campaign trail and promising that he would "prioritize diplomacy over destruction" as president.