Published: Sun, April 02, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Trump Authorizes Pre-Emptive Somalia Airstrikes in Latest US Military Escalation


President Donald Trump has granted the US military more authority to go after al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia, approving a Pentagon request to allow more aggressive airstrikes, officials said Thursday.

In a statement issued several hours after The New York Times first published news of the directive, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, acknowledged that Trump had approved the Pentagon's proposal to expand its targeting authority "to defeat al-Shabab in Somalia" in partnership with African Union and Somali forces. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that the move would assist both the US and its allies. "Somali and [African Union Mission in Somalia] forces already achieved significant success in recapturing territory from Al-Shabab, and additional US support will help them increase pressure on Al-Shabab and reduce the risk to our partner forces when they conduct operations".

Nonetheless, al-Shabab, which aligned with al-Qaida in 2012, remains a capable terrorist group that regularly carries out attacks on Somalian troops, including killing 10 in an assault last week, and on hotels and other soft targets within the nation's capital Mogadishu.

Africa Command Commander General Thomas Waldhauser told reporters on 24 March that approval would allow USA forces to have a "little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process".

It is not clear how many Somali civilians have been killed in the USA fight against al-Shabab.

President Donald Trump is ramping up airstrikes in Somalia against Al Qaeda's third largest affiliate, al-Shabaab, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Those rules, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance, required high-level, interagency vetting of proposed strikes. "At a time when thousands of civilians are now on the move. the USA should be cautious in relying on information about whether civilians are present before deciding to strike", she said.

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Security in Mandera region which borders Somalia remains volatile with the militia who crossed over from their neighboring country responsible for the numerous attacks that have rocked the area.

Rules for airstrikes in other areas of Somalia haven't changed, the officials said. Four Islamist gunmen were killed after detonating a auto bomb and shooting their way into a national intelligence agency training site, the internal security ministry said, adding that the government did not suffer any casualties during the attack.

And in the city of Mosul, Iraq - which ISIS controls part of - US strikes that Iraqi special forces requested might have killed as many as 200 civilians.

In his statement, Davis said more US support will help local forces pressure al Shabaab.

Somali and African Union forces already have achieved some success in recapturing territory from al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab reportedly killed dozens of Kenyan troops in January, but lost 31 fighters in a raid by Kenyan Defense Forces earlier this week.

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