US military involvement in Somalia lacks congressional scrutiny


After a wave of US airstrikes against jihadist groups in the Horn of Africa this summer, US officials traveled to Mogadishu to show support for Somalia’s embattled central government. Lt. Gen. Michael Langley, the new commander of U.S. Africa Command, the division of the U.S. Army focused on operations in Africa, made a visit to Mogadishu earlier this week to meet with Somali defense and security officials.

The visit comes as al-Shabab, a terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has resurrected in strength and reach in the country by leading new and cheeky attacks on civilians in Somalia, and while the Biden administration reversed a trump era Withdrawal of the East African country.

In May, the Biden administration announcement that 500 US troops would return to Somalia as a “small persistent military presence”. US officials have maintained that military operations in Somalia have been limited to support roles for the country’s central government. “We provide #security assistance that strengthens Somalia [and African Union] partners as Somalia assumes full responsibility for protecting the people of Somalia from extremist violence and extortion,” the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu said. tweeted when visiting Langley.

That said, US forces have taken on a greater role in maintaining security and stability in Somalia in recent months. Over the summer, the U.S. military carried out several drone strikes versus al-Shabab targets, killing dozens of suspected al-Shabab members. The strikes come just two years after human rights group Amnesty International critical US Africa Command for lack of accountability for civilian deaths resulting from a separate wave of US airstrikes on alleged al-Shabab targets.

The resurgence of al-Shabab in recent months may be assigned instability in the region caused by the ongoing civil war in neighboring Ethiopia. Last month, al-Shabab invaded northern provinces of Ethiopia, inflicting heavy damage on Ethiopian forces. On August 22, al-Shabab fighters also besieged in a hotel in the heart of Mogadishu, killing more than 20 people and injuring more than a hundred.

The redeployment of troops and these recent airstrikes represent the latest installment in a 15-year US intervention in Somalia carried out entirely without congressional approval. Although American troops mostly withdrew from the country after the 1993 war Battle of Mogadishu, in which Islamic insurgents shot down Black Hawk helicopters and embarrassed the Clinton administration, the Bush administration returned to Somalia in 2007 as part of its global war on terror. The Biden administration’s renewed commitment to Somalia also comes as it pull down other fronts in the war on terrorism and Africa is becoming a priority into broader U.S. military and diplomatic strategy amid the rise of China and Russia on the continent.

Almost exclusively, US military actions on the continent have taken place without much congressional consultation. When four green berets were kill during an ambush in Niger in 2017, many prominent lawmakers reacted with surprise when they learned that a significant number of American troops were even deployed in West Africa. “I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who at the time served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. said on NBC Meet the press. While the Obama administration informed Congress that the United States would send troops to Niger, little congressional oversight followed as American engagement there increased, creating a disconnect between Congress and the White House. As with this summer’s airstrikes in Somalia, no explicit congressional authorization existed neither for these deployments.

Although legislators promised responsibility in the aftermath of the ambush, a report by the Center for a New American Security found that little improvement had been made to the oversight process by 2020. With the Biden administration not backing down on its redeployment plans anytime soon, a lack of reform could have had unfortunate consequences. consequences.


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