By Carlo Muñoz - 05/29/12 10:07 PM EDT
On Tuesday, the Pentagon confirmed Sakhr al-Taifi was killed by a U.S. aerial drone in Kunar Province in Eastern Afghanistan.
The Taifi airstrike was one of many recent drone attacks carried out under the White House's newly expanded authority governing the highly-controversial counterterrorism tactic.
That new authority has allowed American drones operated by U.S. military and intelligence officers to hammer away at suspected terror targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen with increased accuracy and lethality in recent weeks.
But critics argue the expanded drone strike policy includes loopholes allowing the White House to claim drops in collateral damage, when in reality the strikes are no safer to civilians than before.
One loophole is that U.S. military and intelligence officials can operate under the assumption any individual in or around a suspected terror target — whether it's a house, car or building — can be considered terrorist suspects.
If those individuals are killed during an American drone strike, those deaths can be counted as legitimate kills, even if there is no tangible proof those killed in an airstrike had any terrorist ties.
A number of foreign leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, have lashed out at the U.S. military's use of drone strikes because of the collateral damage they create. Their protests came before the administration's decision to change the rules for aerial drone strikes.
As arguments over the strikes began to resurface, the White House and Pentagon on Tuesday claimed the administration is taking every precaution to prevent civilian casualties during airstrikes executed under the new White House policy.
DOD spokesman George Little said told reporters the Pentagon continually employs a number of methods to ensure civilians are not caught in the drone attacks.
"We have very good means of assessing the extent to which our weapons platforms for military or [counterterrorism] operations result in civilian casualties," Little said. "We're very confident that the number is very low."
No civilians were harmed during the Taifi drone strike, according to Little.
However, White House spokesman Jay Carney was peppered with questions over the new drone strike policy and whether that ran afoul of the White House's outspoken record on human rights.
In response, Carney said the Obama administration has taken "extraordinary measures" to avoid civilian casualties while maintaining pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates worldwide.
"This president's commitment to go after those who would do harm to the United States and do harm to our allies is clear," he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
"This president's first priority is the protection of the United States, protection of the citizens of this country, and he takes that responsibility enormously seriously," he added.
Carney declined to provide specific figures on how many civilian deaths were the result of American drone strikes or provide any details on what measures were being taken to avoid those casualties.
"I'm certainly not saying ... we live in a world where it is possible to achieve no civilian casualties," he said. "What I'm saying is, we are able to ... pursue al Qaeda in a way that significantly reduces the potential for and the fact of civilian casualties."