US Africa Command said Friday that it launched an airstrike in Somalia on November 9 in support of the US-backed Mogadishu-based government, marking the second known US airstrike in the country this month.
AFRICOM said that the strike was launched in a remote area of Somalia about 177 miles northeast of Mogadishu. The command said its “initial assessment” found that 17 al-Shabaab fighters were killed.
The last airstrike in Somalia reported by AFRICOM took place on November 3, and in that operation, the command said 15 al-Shabaab members were killed. In both instances, AFRICOM claimed no civilians were harmed, but the Pentagon is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties, especially in Somalia.
There’s little accountability for US operations in Somalia since the airstrikes receive little coverage in the Western press despite the high casualty rates being reported by AFRICOM. US airstrikes in Somalia initially declined under President Biden, but they have escalated since he ordered the deployment of up to 500 troops to the country back in May.
According to The New York Times, the US is considering escalating its involvement in Somalia even further after the Somali government asked the Biden administration to loosen restrictions on drone strikes. The Somali government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has launched offensives against al-Shabaab in recent months and is looking for more US support.
Under Biden’s current policy, strikes launched outside of Iraq and Syria need White House approval unless they can be justified in “self-defense,” which serves as a major loophole. Like most US airstrikes in Somalia this year, AFRICOM said the latest operation was done in the “collective self-defense” of Somali government forces. But dropping the requirement could allow for more US airstrikes in Somalia that can be justified as “preemptive.”
Al-Shabaab is hyped by AFRICOM as a major threat due to its size and al-Qaeda affiliation. But the group was born out of the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and didn’t declare loyalty to al-Qaeda until 2012, after years of fighting the US and its proxies.
The 2022 National Defense Strategy recently released by the Pentagon doesn’t mention al-Shabaab or Somalia by name, even though that is where the US has been launching its most frequent airstrikes. The strategy focuses on China and Russia and only mentions al-Qaeda and ISIS once, saying that the groups and their affiliates have had their “capabilities degraded” but may be able to “reconstitute them in short order.”