May 17, 2017

That ain't a war, that's just an area of active hostilities

Paul D. Shinkman, US News  | - The Defense Department is quietly scrambling to define a little-known term coined by the Obama administration that conveys vast authority over how and where it can fight wars, fearing that existing ambiguities could make military commanders less accountable and more liable under the administration of President Donald Trump.

At issue are what's called "areas of active hostilities," a term of art the Obama administration appropriated to identify where U.S. troops could operate with legal protections in places war has not been declared.

But the phrase has no legal definition and offers no formal protections other than the generally understood compact that the American government will support the actions of its soldiers in foreign conflicts. And while many considered the concept overly cumbersome under Obama, multiple sources who spoke candidly to U.S. News say it has taken on a new and urgent relevance in the Pentagon after Trump gave military commanders greater authority so they could, for example, act faster when an unexpected opportunity to attack a high-value target presents itself.

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