Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) new powers to carry out drone attacks against suspected extremists, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Previously, Trump had expressed his interest in ramping up the fight against the Islamic State (Isis) and other terrorist groups.
The spy agency first used its authority to conduct a strike in February against a senior al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in Syria. However, it wasn't known during the time of the strike that the CIA had conducted it with its new authority.
The Pentagon, White House and the CIA spokespersons refused to comment on the matter.
US Officials told WSJ that while the new authority applied very specifically to the CIA's ability to operate in Syria but it may eventually have the power to operate in other countries like Yemen, Libya, Somalia and other places.
According to the report, this is a departure from the Obama administration's policy to limit the role of the agency in military operations. During Obama's tenure, the spy agency used drones and other means to identify the locations of suspected terrorists and the military would carry out the strikes.
One of the best examples of that approach was the drone strike that US conducted to kill Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in May 2016 in Pakistan, according to US officials.
The Obama administration reportedly took this approach to promote transparency and accountability. The spy agency was previously not required to reveal the number of suspected terrorists or civilian bystanders that were killed in drone strikes. The Pentagon, by contrast, is required to report drone strikes.
However, it is not yet clear if the CIA's authority would be expanded. According to the officials, the White House, Pentagon and the CIA are working on developing a long-term approach to counter terrorism operations.
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