The United States military said on Monday that it had carried out a drone strike in Somalia against the Shabab, the Qaeda-linked insurgent group, in the second such strike since President Trump relaxed targeting rules for counterterrorism operations in that country in March.
The strike, which took place about 2:30 p.m. local time on Sunday, came three months after Mr. Trump cleared the way for offensive strikes, even without a specific self-defense rationale, in Somalia, a chaotic nation in the Horn of Africa.
“We are currently assessing the results of the operation, and will provide additional information as appropriate,” Maj. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an email on Monday.
American officials have said in recent weeks that the military would carry out strikes against elements of the Shabab that plotted attacks, trained militants, stored munitions or other supplies, or other targets that supported and sustained the militancy.
“U.S. forces remain committed to supporting the Federal Government of Somalia, the Somali National Army and our Amisom partners in defeating al-Shabaab and establishing a safe and secure environment in Somalia,” Major Harris said.
Amisom is a coalition of East African nations, including Kenya and Uganda, that has served as an American-backed African Union ground force combating the Shabab in Somalia for the past several years.
Three weeks ago, the Pentagon conducted a drone strike against a command and logistics portion of a Shabab camp about 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu, the capital, killing eight militants, officials said.
The American military’s Africa Command described that camp as part of a broader Shabab stronghold from which the group has launched attacks, including operations over the last nine months in which it overran three African Union bases for peacekeeping soldiers from Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, and seized military weapons.
American officials did not immediately comment on details of Sunday’s drone strike or on its location or a description of what was hit, although a military official said the attack was similar to the one in mid-June.
That attack was carried out by at least one armed Reaper drone flying from a secretive air base in Djibouti. The Reaper dropped multiple Hellfire missiles on the Shabab camp, which American military surveillance aircraft had been monitoring for months.
The United States military has been training and advising African Union and Somali government forces in the country while becoming more directly involved in its civil war for the past several years. In May, two members of an American Navy SEAL team were wounded and one was killed while accompanying Somali forces on a raid against Shabab militants, the first American combat fatality in Somalia since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle in Mogadishu.
Soon after Mr. Trump took office, the Defense Department proposed an escalation of force against the Shabab. The Pentagon wanted Mr. Trump to declare parts of Somalia to be an area of active hostilities, exempting it from the need to obey special targeting limits, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance, that President Barack Obama imposed in 2013 for counterterrorism strikes outside conventional war zones.
In late March, Mr. Trump signed off on the Pentagon’s proposal to exempt much of Somalia from the 2013 limits, clearing the way for the American military to carry out purely offensive strikes, and without going through interagency vetting.
But the head of Africa Command, Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, has said that he is exercising caution in using his new authorities, and that he had decided to keep the standard of near certainty that there would be no civilian deaths.
Against that backdrop, months passed without Africa Command carrying out strikes under the new authorities — until the strikes last month and again on Sunday.
Source: New York Times