President Trump on Wednesday reversed an Obama administration rule that requires defense and intelligence officials to publicly report the number of civilian casualties from U.S. military operations and drone strikes.
Trump signed an executive order that nixed sections from the original order signed by former President Barack Obama on July 1, 2016. That directive required the secretary of defense to submit an unclassified “report on civilian casualties caused as a result of United States military operations” by May 1 of every year, and required the director of national intelligence to do the same for drone strikes, including an assessment “of combatant and non combatant deaths resulting from those strikes.”
Pentagon officials have only been required to report these figures once—revealing in its first report last May that U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen killed 499 civilians, and injured about 169 civilians, in 2017, though they did not provide a breakdown of the deaths and injuries per country or details about the victims.
Upon the release of the first report last year, U.S. military spokeswoman Maj. Audricia Harris told The Wall Street Journal that the military wants “to be as transparent as possible and show the rigorous process U.S. forces take to protect civilians.”
When Obama signed the order, the White House reportedly said that military operations killed 64 civilians between 2009 and 2015 -- a number that was reportedly challenged by nongovernmental organizations that track U.S. drone strikes.
It is unclear what prompted Trump's Wednesday revocation of the Obama-era order.