Despite the American promise to stop intervening in Somalia, Africom's air force attacked a ground target near Galkayo, in western Somalia. A bombing that Washington tries to justify.
It has been seven months to the day since the United States announced the cessation of its military operations in Somalia. The American trainers officially withdrew at the end of January. And everyone assumed that the United States Africa Command (Africom) was just a memory in Somalia. Despite everything, Tuesday Africom chief Stephen Townsend unilaterally authorized a bombing raid on Somali soil. According to Pentagon spokeswoman Cindi King, Townsend carried out a simple "collective allied self-defense" operation.
Africom accuses the al-Shabaab terrorist organization of being behind the raids against the Somali army last weekend. And, for this reason, Townsend decided to bomb ... a road. No civilian, military or terrorist casualties were reported. This causes a lot of questions about this strike. According to Cindi King, Africom has granted itself the right to act under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter on Self-Defense. The spokesperson also assured that there was "an imminent threat", which would explain the decision of the American general, who has not, for once, not consulted the White House.
On the Somali side, Africom assures us that the bombing was authorized by the local authorities. An assertion that has since been denied. Currently in Washington, the legality of this attack is the subject of much internal discussion. In addition to the issue of legality, the strike contravenes statements by US President Joe Biden.
Mogadishu uncomfortable, but silent
The attack took place in Galkacyo, in northwest Somalia. The airstrike hit the Galkacyo-Garowe road in the interior of Puntland state. This region is remote from Wisil and Mogadishu, where the latest Shebab attacks took place. What to suggest that Africom, by evoking self-defense, lied.
The Somali government has not reacted. It must be said that this strike, if it is deemed illegal, could cause a major diplomatic crisis. Somalia is particularly sensitive to the questioning of its sovereignty by the United States, despite the pro-American position of President Farmaajo. The Biden administration has in any case revived the debate on the random bombings perpetrated by the American military in Somalia. Of 11 bombings in 2015, Somalia suffered 64 bombings in 2019 and 54 in 2020. Tuesday's airstrike was therefore the first in 2021.
The US Senate calls for accountability
In March, the former Pentagon spokesman announced that all US attacks outside Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq would be subject to direct authorization from Joe Biden. This would not have been the case for the strike carried out in Somalia. It was initially former President Trump who gave the generals on the ground carte blanche to order bombings. It was also Donald Trump who had the 700 special forces soldiers withdrawn from Somalia.
At the end of 2020, an Amnesty International report noted hundreds of civilians died under American bombs in Somalia. What Africom has never denied. The NGO also warned against bombings in 2021, which it said would be illegal as long as they do not aim to cover American soldiers on the ground. The scandal has spread to the US parliament. Senator Tim Kaine asked yesterday that Africom cease operations in the Red Sea until Townsend justifies the bombing.