More US Airstrikes Against Islamic Jihadists in Somalia
US President Increases US Military Authority in Somalian Conflict
President Donald Trump has boosted the US military’s authority to step up air strikes in the fight against Islamist insurgents in Somalia, the US Defense Department has announced.
According to a Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the new leeway accorded to the military will mean they no longer will have to justify a decision to launch air strikes, potentially leading to more aggressive bombardments.
The expanded powers also will give greater autonomy in decision-making on air strikes to the head of US forces in Africa, General Thomas Waldhauser.
“The president has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support” of the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali security forces operations,” said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, in a statement.
Al-Qaeda Group, Al-Shabaab, Still Controls Parts of Somalia
The forces are fighting to defeat Al-Shabaab militants, a jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda that was forced out of the capital in 2011 by African Union troops but still controls parts of the country.
Al-Shabaab, short for Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen the “Mujahideen Youth Movement” or “Movement of Striving Youth”, is a Salafist jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa. Al-Shabaab is an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its Ethiopian military allies. The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam”, and is engaged in combat against the Federal Government of Somalia and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). In 2012, it pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US State Department has open bounties on several of the group’s senior commanders.
Al-Shabaab’s strength was estimated at 7,000 to 9,000 militants in 2014. Since 2015, the group has been in retreat from the major cities and now controls a few rural areas.
Denying Al-Shabaab Safe Havens
“The additional support provided by this authority will help deny Al-Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack US citizens or US interests in the region,” Davis said.
The decision is in line with the Republican Trump administration’s policy to expand the authority of the military, particularly in authorizing more aggressive air strikes in certain countries.
The military had accused the previous Democratic administration of president Barack Obama of micromanaging combat operations.
Obama notably kept tight control over armed drone strikes, which his successor is pursuing in Somalia and Yemen.