Trump approves escalation of counter-terrorism strikes in Somalia

Experts say President Donald Trump's approval of greater USA military authority to pursue al-Qaida-linked extremists in Somalia will put civilians at further risk, especially as drought displaces thousands of people in areas that now will be considered a war zone.

The authorization, approved Wednesday, is "consistent with our approach of developing capable Somali security forces and supporting regional partners in their efforts to combat al-Shabab", said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, referring to the al-Qaeda-linked group. The group's militants carried out an attack at a university that slaughtered almost 150 victims in 2015, and an attack on a mall in 2013 killed more than 60 people.

Last week, Africa Command Commander Gen. Thomas Waldhauser told reporters if the approval was granted, it would allow the USA to have a "little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process". For example, the United States killed senior al-Shabab leader Abdullahi Haji Da'ud in south-central Somalia in a drone strike last May.

For the fourth time in the past six days, President Donald Trump has used his platform on Twitter to take a swing at a group of more conservative Republicans in the House, this time raising the specter of using the bully pulpit against them in the 2018 elections, if they don't get on board with his legislative agenda.

But because Somalia was not considered an active war zone, proposed strikes needed high-level, interagency vetting. Troops from U.S. Africa Command support the mission through information exchanges, partnership building exercises and precision strikes.

Trump has made the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and affiliated extremist groups one of the priorities of his administration.

"The downside is you risk potentially greater civilian casualties or potentially killing militants who are not part of our enemy", Hartig said.

Security in Mandera region which borders Somalia remains volatile with the militia who crossed over from their neighboring country responsible for the numerous attacks that have rocked the area.

The two women, both suburban mothers, helped organize a ring of 15 people located around the world that sent funds to the al-Shabaab militant group, prosecutors said.

"It allows us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion", Waldhauser said.

Even before the new relaxations of the rules, 200 to 300 U.S. Special Operations forces have been working with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids every month, according to senior U.S. military officials.

Somali and African Union forces already have achieved some success in recapturing territory from al-Shabaab.

The move allows for increased airstrikes, which have previously only been used for defense of partnered forces.

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