According to a report from The New York Times, the US is considering expanding drone strikes in Somalia after a request was made by the US-backed Mogadishu-based government.
The Somali government asked the US to loosen restrictions on drone strikes so more can be carried out against al-Shabaab. Under the current policy that was recently formalized by President Biden, strikes in Somalia need to be justified as in defense of partner forces, or they need to be approved by the White House.
The US-backed government recently launched an offensive against al-Shabaab, and heavy fighting has taken place. The government has also employed the help of some local militias, and US drone strikes have become more frequent.
So far, the US has launched 11 known airstrikes in Somalia in 2022. Ten were done in the name of defending the Somali government, and one targeted a senior Shabab leader, Abdullahi Nadir, who was on a kill list approved by President Biden.
US officials told the Times that the Somali government request is asking the US to loosen the definition of a self-defense strike or declare certain areas of Somalia as active war zones. If the areas are considered war zones, the US can launch attacks against al-Shabaab members at any time.
The officials said that the request is still being considered by the Pentagon and hasn’t yet been presented to the White House with a recommendation. Earlier this year, the White House complied with the Pentagon’s request to send more troops into Somalia, and President Biden deployed 450 soldiers into the country.
Before the recent escalation, US airstrikes significantly declined in Somalia under President Biden. In 2021, 11 strikes were reported by US Africa Command, but seven of them took place in the final weeks of the Trump administration from January 1-19. AFRICOM said it conducted 52 Somalia airstrikes in 2020, 63 in 2019, 47 in 2018, and 35 in 2017.