Published: Sun, April 02, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Pentagon gets OK for more aggressive airstrikes in Somalia

The new directive for Somalia is another example of how the USA military is accelerating the ways it carries out combat missions under the Trump administration, reducing constraints on the use of force imposed by the Obama administration.

President Trump is giving the Pentagon more authority to carry out airstrikes in Somalia.

USA special operations forces can move closer to the fight and call in offensive airstrikes more quickly.

President Trump has labeled Somalia an "area of active hostilities" and authorized the USA military to conduct pre-emptive "precision airstrikes" in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia and the Somalia National Army, which has been suffering heavy losses in the entrenched battle against Islamist insurgents.

He dismissed suggestions the change could cause more civilian casualties.

At that same dinner, Mattis also presented proposals to similarly remove swaths of Yemen from the Obama-era targeting limits and carry out a raid against Yemen's Qaida branch.

"They are a hard target, unlike ISIS".

In the past year the US launched 14 airstrikes - almost all drone strikes - killing some top al-Shabab leaders, according to a Somali intelligence official who coordinated with the USA on some of them. learnt that the military had accused the previous Democratic administration of President Barack Obama of micromanaging combat operations. They also said the target must pose a threat to Americans and that there must be near-certainty that no civilian bystanders would die.

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A new US policy gives greater latitude for air strikes and raids by ground troops against militants of the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, seen here performing military exercises in 2011.

In addition, some civilian bystander deaths would be permitted if deemed necessary and proportionate.

Mr Trump has designated certain regions an "area of active hostilities" where the Presidential Policy Guidance rules do not apply. He said the USA was seeking a "fresh perspective" amid concern that some fighters have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, illustrating the danger of militants fleeing battlefields in Iraq and Syria for haven in Somalia.

The 17 March US air strike in Mosul, Iraq may have killed as many as 200 people.

"The process is shortened, this does not mean that the process is any less effective at mitigating against civilian casualties", the officer explained. "At this pace, the number of alleged coalition incidents this year could surpass 800".

About 50 USA commandos now rotate in and out of Somalia to advise and assist local troops.

Mr Trump's decision to loosen terms for using force mirrors what he did for Yemen earlier in his term.

The U.S. already has military bases in Somalia, although it has not publicly acknowledged them.

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