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An area of Raqqa hitten heavily by coalition airstrikes. Photo: Jake Simkin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Since President Trump took office, the U.S. has carried out more airstrikes in more places, expanded its use of drones and been increasingly willing to risk civilian casualties.

The bottom line: Under Barack Obama, the U.S. pounded ISIS from the air and made heavy use of drones. Trump seems to have taken those tactics into hyperdrive in pursuit of shock, awe and a quick victory. With a flood of other news to sift through, America has hardly noticed the shift.

By the numbers: The U.S.-led coalition carried out nearly 12,000 airstrikes (manned and unmanned) in Iraq and Syria last year. The uptick, which has since subsided, corresponded with a spike in civilian casualties.

Rachel Stohl of the Stimson Center writes for Axios Expert Voices that Trump has made U.S. drone policy "less restrained, transparent and accountable."

  • "The administration has reversed course on measures designed to bring drone use out of the shadows, eliminated the requirement that a target pose an 'imminent threat,' and loosened the requirement of 'near certainty' that the target is present — all while refusing to confirm or deny that changes to such policies and procedures have been made."
  • "It has also increased the frequency and geographic scope of lethal drone strikes, especially in areas where stricter rules around the use of force were previously in place." Those areas include Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

A recent Amnesty International report, which has drawn vehement objections from the Pentagon, accuses the U.S. of possible war crimes over "indiscriminate" attacks in the battle last year to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS.

  • From the report: "On the ground in Raqqa we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we've seen in decades of covering the impact of wars."
  • Col. Thomas Veale: "As far as how do we know how many civilians were killed — I'm just being honest, no one will ever know. Anyone who claims they will know is lying."

The assault on ISIS has had major successes. Both Raqqa and Mosul fell to U.S.-backed forces last year.

  • Polls show most Americans support the use of drones in warfare, and they’d certainly rather the U.S. fight from the air than on the ground.
  • But while the tactics have generated little domestic debate in the U.S. in recent months, they've shifted how many in the region view the U.S.

Go deeper: The full airstrikes visual from Axios' Harry Stevens.

Go deeper

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.

CBC members nix border visit

A Haitian migrant carries a toddler on his shoulders today as he crosses the Rio Grande River. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus weighed visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week to investigate the conditions faced by Haitian migrants and protest allegations of inhumane treatment by U.S. agents.

Why it matters: It's a thorny proposition both in terms of timing and messaging. Going assures a new wave of negative headlines for President Biden amid sinking popularity. And with congressional deadlines in the coming days over infrastructure, a possible government shutdown and debt-limit crisis, Democrats can't afford to lose any votes in the House.

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