President Donald Trump has boosted the US military’s authority to step up air strikes in the fight against Islamist insurgents in Somalia, the Defense Department said.
According to a Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the new leeway accorded to the military will mean they no longer will have to justify a decision to launch air strikes, potentially leading to more aggressive bombardments.
The expanded powers also will give greater autonomy in decision-making on air strikes to the head of US forces in Africa, General Thomas Waldhauser.
“The president has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support” of the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali security forces operations,” said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, in a statement.
The forces are fighting to defeat Al-Shabaab militants, a jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda that was forced out of the capital in 2011 by African Union troops but still controls parts of the country.
“The additional support provided by this authority will help deny Al-Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack US citizens or US interests in the region,” Davis said.
The decision is in line with the Republican Trump administration’s policy to expand the authority of the military, particularly in authorizing more aggressive air strikes in certain countries.
The military had accused the previous Democratic administration of president Barack Obama of micromanaging combat operations.
Obama notably kept tight control over armed drone strikes, which his successor is pursuing in Somalia and Yemen.