Washington- President Donald Trump has approved proposals made by generals to boost the US military’s authority to step up air strikes in the fight against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, the Defense Department has said.
“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 on Thursday.
“The additional support provided by this authority will help deny Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack US citizens or US interests in the region,” he added.
Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command, told members of Congress last week he wouldn’t turn Somalia into a “free fire zone.” He stressed the need for “more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process” to strike Shabaab and weaken it.
Reuters said that Shabaab has been able to carry out deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government.
Two US defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said parts of Somalia had been declared an “area of active hostilities” for at least 180 days by the White House on Wednesday night. The capital of Mogadishu was not included.
This broader authority would allow the United States to carry out offensive strikes against Shabaab militants even if the militants were not attacking partnered forces, the officials said. They said rules to avoid civilian casualties would not be loosened.
Previously, the United States carried out airstrikes in limited circumstances in Somalia.