More aggressive US strikes in Somalia said to risk civilians

President Donald Trump has approved new kinds of operations for the USA military in Somalia, the Pentagon said Thursday, setting the stage for a wider American role there as US troops team directly with Somali soldiers in offensive operations.

According to a Reuters report, Trump's action allows for offensive strikes.

The change would reportedly apply only to US missions that assist Somali and African Union forces and unilateral operations by the Pentagon.

Trump's move would allow USA special forces to work directly with the Somali military, which has struggled for over a decade against the influence of Al-Shabab, an ultraconservative Sunni Muslim militant group linked to Al-Qaeda, the Associated Press reported.

Trump signing off on the decision was first reported by the New York Times on Thursday.

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

"The additional support provided by this authority will help deny al-Shabab safe havens from which it could attack USA citizens or US interests in the region", he said.

But because Somalia was not considered an active war zone, proposed strikes needed high-level, interagency vetting.

The strikes will target Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Somalia.

In addition, some civilian bystander deaths would be permitted if deemed necessary and proportionate.

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The Trump administration has told Congress it plans to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.

Mr Trump's decision to loosen terms for using force mirrors what he did for Yemen earlier in his term.

He dismissed suggestions the change could cause more civilian casualties. The revision would give USA ground forces the ability to call in airstrikes without higher-level approval, something the Pentagon has reportedly been asking for in order to realize its stated goal of stabilizing the nation, which has seen near-constant conflict for over 25 years.

Luke Hartig, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said greater action could be helpful in dealing with a threat, pointing to the Obama administration's decision past year to temporarily declare the region around Sirte, Libya, an active-hostilities zone.

"The downside is you risk potentially greater civilian casualties or potentially killing militants who are not part of our enemy", Hartig said. Thomas Waldhauser, the top officer at Africa Command, had publicly acknowledged he was seeking it at a news conference on March 24.

The official stressed that the US will not be able to make unilateral decisions for airstrikes, they will be done in consultation with AMISOM and the government of Somalia. Somalia joins the list of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Still, the Central Command, which oversees military operations in Yemen, has carried out a fierce campaign of airstrikes in Yemen.

Waldhauser said last week that offensive strikes will keep al-Shabab from expanding its territory where it plots such attacks.

Al-Shabaab controlled most of southern Somalia at its peak in late 2006.

Jama and Dhirane sent money to financiers of al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, which they referred to respectively as the "Hargeisa side" and the "Nairobi side", according to court documents, which reveal that the two also organized what was called a "Group of Fifteen", which included women from Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Al Shabaab militants, who numbered between 10 and 15, killed at least 69 people and left many others injured in a four-day siege at Westgate. Somalia's crisis deepened with the rise of Al-Qaeda offshoot Al-Shabab, prompting a renewed US military intervention through special operations units and drone strikes.

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