President Joe Biden's decision to end the US war in Afghanistan ended in disaster: a drone strike that killed 10 innocent civilians, including children. But a new report finds that such airstrikes, overall, have dramatically fallen in Biden's first year.
"The biggest take-home is that Biden has significantly decreased US military action across the globe," the monitoring group Airwars said in the report released Wednesday. That, in turn, has resulted in "far lower numbers of civilians allegedly killed by the US strikes."
The US military has, overall, carried out 439 aerial attacks in 2021, a 54% drop from the year before under former President Donald Trump, Airwars data showed.
The group said the biggest drop came in Yemen, where there were no officially declared strikes in 2021, compared to 18 in 2020. Airstrikes also fell by 88% in Somalia, where the US has for years fought an al-Qaeda linked insurgency, as well as 71% in Iraq and Syria, reflecting the military defeat of the Islamic State.
The vast majority of military strikes under Biden happened in Afghanistan before US forces left in August. Excluding those attacks, the US declared just 67 airstrikes, Airwars said, citing official US military data.
The caveat is that this is official data — it does not include, for example, clandestine CIA strikes. But it does reflect what has been reported as a broad reconsideration of US military actions around the world.
A month into Biden's presidency, Insider reported that there had been no apparent drone strikes or otherwise high-profile military actions, a stark contrast from his predecessor, who began his administration with a botched raid in Yemen that killed an 8-year-old US citizen.
Drones had been one of the most controversial aspects of former President Barack Obama's administration, killing scores of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the US war on the Taliban. Before leaving office, Obama imposed new restrictions on when and where such strikes could be carried out. He also signed an executive order requiring civilian deaths to be reported to Congress, a move that Trump reversed.
Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International's director of security with human rights, told Insider the reduction in airstrikes "is a very hopeful sign that the Biden administration is trying to reduce the catastrophic impact of war on civilians."
But she cautioned that it was too early to say whether it reflects a definitive change in policy. And, she said, we can't forget the past.
"We sadly saw a huge uptick in air strikes and civilian casualties under the Trump administration, and the US government can't just turn a blind eye to what happened," Eviatar said. "Part of moving forward will require looking back, learning from the past, and making amends."