MOGADISHU, Somalia – The US military carried out the first drone strike against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, which now becomes the first-ever airstrike in the Horn of Africa country under the administration of President Joe Biden, who took up his post in January 2021.
Defense ministry said Tuesday’s airstrike was carried out against militants after they ambushed the Somali National Army [SNA] commandos, Danab’s special forces in Galkayo, a troubled town in Galmadug state in central Somalia.
Pentagon spokeswoman Cindi King also confirmed the latest development. Danab’s special forces, which are trained by the US Africa Command, have carried out operations against the Al-Shabaab group across the country.
The Biden administration placed new limits on drone strikes outside active war zones when he took office on January 20, to give him time to develop a permanent policy. The Trump administration has established general rules for strikes in particular countries and has delegated powers to commanders on the ground as to when to carry them out, but strike proposals are now generally channeled through the White House.
Although the White House was cautious with the airstrikes, in this case, Ms. King said, White House approval was not required as the Africa Command has the power to carry out airstrikes in support. to allied forces as part of what the army calls collective self-defense. .
In January of this year, just five days before Biden succeeded Donald Trump, the United States withdrew 700 troops from the war-torn country. The troops have been repositioned in Kenya and Djibouti, but there have been talks to recall them to Somalia.
Ms King said Danab’s commandos were advised from a distance by US trainers when they were attacked.
“There was no American force accompanying the Somali forces during this operation,” Ms. King said in an email. “US forces were conducting a remote advisory and assistance mission in support of designated Somali partner forces.”
Galkayo is a divided town that sits on a fault line between two major clans, and it sits on a major smuggling route used by militants traveling between the heart of Al Shabab in southern Somalia and the northern part from the country. The town also lies along the border of Northeastern State and Galmadug.
According to Ms King, the ongoing fighting between Al-Shabaab and Somali forces was delaying Africa Command’s assessment of the airstrike, the seventh overall this year against the militants, but the first since January 19, the day before President Biden’s inauguration.
The Biden administration is considering redeploying troops to Somalia following a host of demands from the country. Already, a number of them have been sent to northeastern Kenya where they are helping the Kenya Defense Forces counter Al-Shabaab.
An interagency review, which has been underway for several months, has not yet been completed, a US official said. But under one option being considered, a smaller number of US troops would be redeployed to military bases in southern Somalia, near the border with Kenya, where Al Shabab influence is strongest.
The option of continuing US military operations from bases in northern Kenya – unofficially referred to as “on the horizon” – has become less attractive in recent months since a diplomatic row between Somalia and Kenya cut ties. air links between the two countries for several weeks.
Somalis and Kenyans disagree on several issues, including ownership of an oil-rich water triangle in the Indian Ocean. In May, diplomats from Qatar mediated between the two countries and appeared to have reached an agreement.
But soon relations plunged again and Somalia suspended all flights from Kenya, including those involving US military planes based in Manda Bay, northern Kenya, which were positioned to conduct countermeasures. terrorism.