Washington, April 20 (IANS) The Trump administration has unveiled a new policy that could vastly expand sales of armed drones, making it easier to put American-made weapons into the hands of US allies and partners.
With the plan that was rolled out on Thursday, the administration sought to lift — what it viewed — as self-imposed policy restrictions that limited potential opportunities for business, the New York Times reported.
However, according to experts, the move posed grave risks to US security as the newly-released conventional arms transfer policy will put jobs and the interests of arms manufacturers ahead of safety, security and human rights in its decisions on who the US should arm.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has shown an “insatiable appetite” for selling American weaponry abroad — at times using face-to-face meetings with global leaders to make a personal sales pitch.
Under the new Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) export policy, private US defence companies will now be allowed to directly sell certain types of conventional weapons and a broader range of unmanned drones to allies without having to go through the US government, CNN reported.
Trump seemed to foreshadow the new policies during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday when he said at a that after allies order weapons from the US, “we will get it taken care of, and they will get their equipment rapidly”.
“It would be, in some cases, years before orders would take place because of bureaucracy with Department of Defence, State Department.
“We are short-circuiting that. It’s now going to be a matter of days. If they’re our allies, we are going to help them get this very important, great military equipment,” Trump said.
The biggest change announced involved the sale of larger armed drones like the Predator and the Reaper, which were the workhorses of the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Former President Barack Obama embraced the weapons but was also so troubled by such remote warfare tools that he placed unusual restrictions on their sale, the Times report said.
“The new drone export policy will keep our defence industrial base in the vanguard of emerging defence technologies while creating thousands of additional jobs with good wages and generating substantial export revenues,” said Peter Navarro, assistant to the President for trade and manufacturing policy.
Under the old policy, only Britain, France and Italy were approved to purchase armed drones, said Dan Gettinger, co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.
As more countries are approved, “the risk is that countries may be more willing to use military force when they can do so without risking their own people”, Gettinger said.