Exactly six months after Joe Biden became president, the US conducted its first declared strike in Somalia of his administration, at either 10.21 or 11.05am on July 20th 2021.
According to Morad News the attack took place in the Qay’ad area of Muldug, with Sonna state media reporting that the airstrike was conducted on a fortified position in Qaycad village, between Wisil and Bacaadweyn. Sonna also said that 20 al Shabaab militants were killed in the attack, with “many more” injured.
SomaliAffairs instead said the strike “targeted Al-Shabab militants stationed between Qay’ad village and Harardhere town”.
The US military said the strike was near Galkayo – the first recorded US action since 2018 in that immediate area.
According to a Pentagon spokeswoman cited by the New York Times, the attack had struck al Shabaab fighters assaulting Somali special forces on the ground.
According to the Times, “The [drone] strike was carried out by military aircraft against Shabab fighters who were attacking members of the Danab, an elite American-trained Somali commando force, near the town of Galkayo in the country’s north, said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Cindi King.”
“Mrs. King said the Danab commandos were being advised remotely by American trainers when they came under attack. ‘There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation,’ Mrs. King said in an email. “U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces.’”
AFP noted that an official DoD letter stated that “A battle-damage assessment is still pending due to the ongoing engagement between Al-Shabab and Somali forces, however the command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this strike”.
Voice of America reported that Somali commanders had been hoping for a resumption of US strikes: “Somali Army spokesman Colonel Ali Hashi Abdinur told VOA earlier this week he hoped the U.S. would resume the strikes, especially to target the al-Qaida-linked fighters in areas where the Somali infantry can’t reach. ‘We have good cooperation and collaboration with the U.S.,’ he said. ‘There are hard-to-reach areas in the forests where the airstrikes used to target their leaders.’”
The President of Galmudug State later tweeted that “The aim of the strike was to protect the brave armed forces those who are facing the enemy and it was successfully conducted as there were zero civilian casualties involved.”
An initial statement from the Somali government on the attack made no mention of US forces participation, placing the event at 11.05am local time. Breaking with recent convention, the strike was then declared directly by the Pentagon rather than by US Africa Command. However, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman confirmed to media that the strike had in fact been authorised by General Townsend of AFRICOM.
Biden’s first action in Somalia caused some discomfort in Congress. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told Politco’s NatSec Daily that ““I remain concerned with the justification of ‘collective self-defense’ to respond with U.S. military force to protect foreign groups when there is no direct threat to the U.S., its armed forces, or citizens… I look forward to getting more information from the administration about this specific drone strike, especially as we continue to work together to rebalance the Article I and Article II powers on use of force issues and update the 2001 AUMF to reflect current threats against the United States.”
A trio of senators – Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Mike Lee of Utah – issued a statement condemning the attack: “We’re troubled that no one in the administration sought the required legal authorization from Congress for Tuesday’s drone strike in Somalia especially with no American forces at risk—and apparently, did not even check with our commander-in-chief.”
And Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote expressing her concerns about the strike to President Biden, requesting answers to eight specific questions about the action.
The incident occured between 10:21 am and 11:05 am local time.
Sources (17) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the village of Qeycad, for which the generic coordinates are: 5.0105526, 47.991289. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command forces conducted one airstrike in the vicinity of Galkayo, Somalia, July 20, 2021.
A battle-damage assessment is still pending due to the ongoing engagement between al-Shabaab and Somali forces, however the command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this strike as the strike targeted known al-Shabaab fighters and took place in a remote area.
“This strike was conducted under collective self-defense authority and targeted al-Shabaab fighters engaged in active combat with our Somali partners,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas Savage, U.S. Africa Command deputy director of operations. “We are committed to supporting our Somali partners as they fight against these terrorists.”
The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command forces take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.
The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent men, women and children.
Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to U.S. and regional interests.