The Pentagon has confirmed that President Joe Biden has carried out his first military strikes on the African continent, on Tuesday launching strikes on Somalia targeting al-Qaeda linked al Shabaab militants. “The Department of Defense can confirm that in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US Africa Command forces conducted one airstrike against al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Galkayo, Somalia, today,” the Pentagon said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Cindi King indicated the operation took place “in the vicinity of Galkayo, Somalia,” which is a city in the country’s center, according to The Hill. “A battle-damage assessment is still pending due to the ongoing engagement between al-Shabaab and Somali forces,” she said Tuesday.
The Somali government has long been battling the Islamist insurgent group, which has in the past been responsible for hundreds of kidnappings as well as sporadic terror attacks on civilian areas of the war-torn country. The US military said it worked in coordination with the Somali government for Tuesday’s operation.
It marks the third publicly confirmed Biden-ordered air strikes of his presidency, with the prior two launched in Eastern Syria along the Iraq border ostensibly against “Iran-backed militia” engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on American bases.
According to The Hill, the last time US forces hit Somalia was on Jan. 19 – just before Biden was sworn into office – and after Trump had loosened the rules of engagement for drone strikes.
Current US rules of engagement based on the stated policies of the Biden administration say that any planned airstrikes conducted outside Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq have to be formally submitted to the White House to “ensure that the president has full visibility on proposed significant actions.” This means it’s most likely Biden personally signed off of the strikes.
During the “global war on terror” years airstrikes in Somalia in grew, especially drone strikes, resulting in growing civilian casualties…
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have previously urged a halt to America’s drone action in Somalia over mounting civilian casualties…
Somalia: Zero accountability as civilian deaths mount from US air strikes https://t.co/DbXS0AOzht
— amnestypress (@amnestypress) April 1, 2020
Alarmingly this suggests military commanders do have the option of ordering operations in these three countries without explicit approval from the commander-in-chief. While the US has long operated inside Iraq and Afghanistan at the invitation of the governments there, Damascus has long maintained that the US presence in Syria is a flagrant violation of its sovereignty.
Some Congressional leaders – even among Democrats – have of late agreed, demanding that based on constitutional requirements he must submit notification to Congress. The same war powers debate could just as easily be had when it comes to Somalia, however, it probably won’t.