On Tuesday, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said it launched an airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabaab on Sunday as President Biden continues to escalate the US air war in the country.
AFRICOM said the strike took place near the vicinity of Buulobarde, a city in Somalia’s central Hiiran region, where heavy fighting between the US-backed Mogadishu-based government and al-Shabaab has taken place in recent months.
AFRICOM said that its “initial assessment” found two al-Shabaab fighters were killed and claimed the strike was launched as al-Shabaab was attacking the government forces.
The strike came after President Biden issued a guidance changing the US’s drone strike policy. Under the new guidance, strikes outside of Iraq and Syria need presidential approval, but there is a major loophole.
If the strike can be justified as launched in self-defense of the US or a partner force, it doesn’t need to be signed off by the White House. The strike on Sunday and other recent operations in Somalia likely fell under this justification and didn’t need to be signed off by Biden.
Sunday’s strike marked the second reported by AFRICOM in Somalia this month. US airstrikes in Somalia significantly decreased when President Biden first came into office, but they have escalated since he ordered the deployment of up to 500 troops to the country back in May.
AFRICOM has claimed no civilians were killed in its recent operations in Somalia. But the Pentagon is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties, especially in Somalia, where US operations are shrouded in secrecy.