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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

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak.
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings.
  5. World: Iran tightens COVID restrictions amid fourth wave of pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated 1 hour ago - Science

NASA's delays Mars helicopter test flight

Ingenuity (left) with Perseverance on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA announced Saturday it rescheduled its Ingenuity Mars helicopter's first experimental flight, originally planned for Sunday.

The latest: "During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," NASA said in a statement. "This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode."

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel escorted out of RNC retreat

Ohio Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel. Photo: Chris Maddaloni / Getty Images

During this weekend’s highly anticipated donor retreat hosted by the Republican National Committee in Palm Beach, Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel was escorted off the premises while his primary opponent, Jane Timken, was allowed to stay, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell Axios.

What we’re hearing: The invitation-only event is taking place at the Four Seasons Resort, and the RNC reserved the entire hotel. While Timken, former Ohio GOP chair, was invited to the event “because she is a major donor” — Mandel was not, so he was asked to leave, according to one of the sources.

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