President Trump wants to give Defense Secretary James Mattis greater control over launching anti-terrorist operations, multiple U.S. officials told The Daily Beast. Trump's decision to pass off some of his power as commander-in-chief would give Mattis more freedom to make quicker decisions over missions, a reversal from the lengthy and cautious approval process employed by former President Barack Obama. Though U.S. commanders already have the authority to make decisions about launching operations in declared war zones, making calls outside of those pre-determined spaces or "in ungoverned or unstable places" like Libya or Yemen can require approval from as far up the chain of command as the Oval Office:
Trump officials believe loosening the permissions process can help turn up the heat against ISIS — and counterterrorist-focused agencies like the military's Joint Special Operations Command are lining up new targets in anticipation of more numerous and more rapid approvals.
One model being considered is pre-delegating authority to Mattis on extremely sensitive operations like hostage rescues; for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets, that authority could be pushed much further down the chain of command — all the way down to the three-star general who runs JSOC. If his teams spot a target that's already on the White House approved high value target list, the elite force will be able to move into action, informing the national security apparatus of the operation but not having to wait for permission. [The Daily Beast]
The Daily Beast's report reflects the Trump administration's pledge to intensify the fight against the Islamic State, as well as the president's expressed interest in operating "more like the CEO he was in the private sector in such matters." However, The Daily Beast pointed out the change might give Mattis and others "pause," after Trump's first authorized raid in January, which targeted al Qaeda militants in Yemen, resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens in addition to possibly dozens of others.
Though Trump has repeatedly defended the Yemen mission as a success, he was quick to pass responsibility for its occurrence on military leaders. Rather than own the operation as the nation's commander-in-chief, Trump in an interview Tuesday said the mission "was started before I got here" and put the burden on military officials. "My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades," Trump said, "and they lost Ryan." For more on Trump's potential changes to military protocol, head to The Daily Beast.