United States forces have began carrying out airstrikes against militants in Somalia few weeks after Joe Biden administration said it was deploying at least a hundred special operations special forces to the country.
United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) carried out the airstrike on Friday June 3, against al-Shabaab fighters in a rural part of the country, in response to the insurgents attacking Somali government forces.
Five al-Shabaab fighters were reported killed in the attack. “U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in support of designated partner forces,” AFRICOM noted in its statement on the strike.
AFRICOM did not specify what type of aircraft performed the attack. However, this is the second strike by AFRICOM this year, the first occurring in February, where a drone struck militants following an insurgent attack on Somali troops.
Regarding the February attack and this Friday’s operation, AFRICOM noted it has the authority to launch such airstrikes to support the Somali government.
In May, President Joe Biden authorized the deployment of hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia to “advise and assist and training mission” to help the Somali government fight al-Shabaab.
Although the US military has stressed the soldiers are not directly taking part in combat, their support included air strikes against the militant group.
The US has a long history of drone strikes in Somalia, last year, AFRICOM noted that it will now require approval from the White House before it can launch airstrikes against militants in Somalia. This change comes as President Biden tries to limit the ability of field commanders to authorize attacks as they see fit and amidst a reversal of some of former President Donald Trump’s controversial policies.
Elsewhere, the US is reviving its request to launch drone strikes from Kenya, as President Joe Biden hopes to strengthen US military presence in the Horn of Africa.
In 2020, Kenyan Government denied AFRICOM’s request to carry out armed drone attacks in some parts of Kenya.
The push for the US to carry out airstrikes in Kenya traces back to al-Shabab attack in January 2020 on a military base in Kenya that housed United States troops. The attack on the airfield at Manda Bay killed three Americans and caused millions of dollars in damage.
“Africom certainly recognizes the need to apply consistent international pressure on Al-Shabab and to monitor their activity, presence, and actively confront them in order to prevent their spread. This can take several forms,” Africom spokesman Col. Christopher P. Karns told The New York Times.
Lt. Col. Anton T. Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman, said at the time: “The U.S. military will defend U.S. personnel, citizens and homeland as necessary anywhere in the world.”