Source Responsible Statecraft
WASHINGTON, U.S.--In yet another indication that the Biden administration has no intention to bring an end to endless war, the New York Times reported on Monday that the U.S. Africa Command will be redeploying troops to Somalia, and that the White House has approved the Pentagon’s request for discretionary authority to conduct drone strikes in the country.
Somalia has been the target of imperial warfare since December 2006, when the U.S. backed an Ethiopian-led invasion that dislodged the first stable government that had emerged in years.
Soon after President Obama assumed office in 2009, he authorized U.S. drone strikes as well as the deployment of Special Operations forces inside the country.
President Biden has clearly decided to maintain Trump’s “flexible” approach to drone warfare in Somalia — one that gives military commanders in the field more latitude to make decisions, requiring that they obtain consent from the State Department’s chief of mission rather than the White House.
What the Biden administration has done is draft new laws and procedures, offering safeguards against civilian bystander deaths that purport to provide protections for adult men as well as women and children.
In the meantime, racialized depictions of Somalia as a war-torn country with the alleged potential to threaten U.S. interests are instrumental in maintaining public support for renewed commitment to war. AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend claims that al-Shabab is “bigger, stronger, and bolder,” even if its exact capabilities are “an open question.”
In light of AFRICOM’s stated plan to enhance the capacity of its partners to target al-Shabab, Congress and the American public should raise questions about these very partners, from Bancroft Global to the Danab Brigade and AMISOM (recently replaced by ATMIS, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia), whose collective roles in exacerbating the violence has been widely documented.
The Danab Brigade was established in 2014 with initial funding from the U.S. State Department that paid for the services of Bancroft Global, a private security firm that trained and advised the unit. Since then, it has also received funding and training from the Department of Defense.
Ironically, the Times reports that the Biden administration’s deliberations about next steps in Somalia have been complicated by political chaos on the ground, implying that the United States somehow stands outside and above seemingly local factions and loyalties.
Gun prices soared in advance of Somalia’s presidential elections last weekend as anxious Mogadishu residents worried about prospects for instability. It is no coincidence that many of these guns arrived via a loophole in a U.N. arms embargo that permits the distribution of weapons to the Somali National Security Forces in the name of training and security sector reform.
Somalis have enough to worry about as food prices skyrocket with the shutdown of global supply chains, and as the worst drought in four decades affects over 7 million of the country’s inhabitants. The last thing they need is more war.