Conflict monitors on Friday drew attention to a series of US airstrikes in Somalia in recent months, attacks that have received relatively little attention in the American corporate media despite having reportedly killed more than 20 people.
"If you were unaware that we were bombing Somalia, don't feel bad, this is a completely under-the-radar news story, one that was curiously absent from the headlines in all of the major newspapers this morning," wrote Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, a senior adviser at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
On Wednesday, Antiwar.com's Dave DeCamp reported that US Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched its second strike on Somalia in a week. AFRICOM said its initial assessment found the attack, which occurred in Beledweyne and killed 13 fighters belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabaab, and that no civilians were harmed.
AFRICOM also said it killed four al-Shabaab members in three separate airstrikes near Beledweyne on August 9, two fighters in a joint US-Somali operation near Labi Kus on July 17, and five militants in a June 3 bombing outside Beer Xani.
All of these strikes have taken place since US President Joe Biden approved the redeployment of hundreds of special forces troops to Somalia in May, reversing a drawdown from the war-ravaged nation implemented during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
DeCamp noted that Trump's withdrawal from Somalia merely "repositioned troops in neighboring Djibouti and Kenya, allowing the drone war to continue. But Biden has launched significantly fewer strikes in Somalia compared to his predecessor."
Airwars has recorded two US airstrikes in Somalia so far this month, suggesting a potential uptick of strikes targeting militants.— Airwars (@airwars) August 19, 2022
We’ve documented a total of six strikes since May, following Biden’s decision to redeploy US troops: https://t.co/kimoRaCbE2
A brief thread pic.twitter.com/qQMm95iS1s
According to data from the U.K.-based monitor group Airwars, US forces have bombed Somalia at least 16 times during Biden's tenure, killing between 465 and 545 suspected militants. On March 13, a joint US drone and Somali airstrike killed a staggering 200 alleged militants.
Airwars identified civilian casualties in just one of the attacks during Biden's presidency, a June 2021 strike attributed to either US or Kenyan forces, which have been battling al-Shabaab since 2011. The attack on the southern town of Ceel Cadde killed Sahro Adan Warsame and seriously injured five of her children, according to local media reports.
Since 2007, the US military has carried out 260 actions in Somalia. While the Pentagon only admits to killing five civilians and wounding 11 others in a campaign it claims killed as many as 3,010 militants, Airwars estimates that 78-153 civilians, including 20-23 children, have died in US attacks.
"Bottom line, it’s been a long time since the United States was not bombing Somalia," wrote Vlahos. "This comes after a particularly bloody period during the [so-called War on Terror] in which the CIA was using the country to detain and torture terror suspects from across North Africa."
"Whether this has ultimately been a good thing for the country or for the broader security of the region, one need only to look at the continued instability and impoverishment of the people," she added, "and of course, the persistent presence of al-Shabaab itself."
Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.