President has delegated direction of overseas conflicts to his generals, raising fears of unchecked escalation

Donald Trump’s decision to let the US military off the leash in the fight against Islamic State and like-minded terror groups in combat zones in the Middle East and north Africa appears to be a significant contributory factor in a sharp, across-the-board rise in civilian casualties reported by the UN and aid agencies.

This week the US president handed over direction of the war in Afghanistan to his defence secretary, the former Marine Corps general, Jim Mattis. It was the latest in a series of similar moves effectively giving Pentagon chiefs a free rein in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.

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