The Pentagon said Monday a U.S. air raid on a Somali militant training camp killed at least 150 Al-Shabab fighters over the weekend (Reuters). U.S. officials said the strikes came after the United States received intelligence the fighters were about to strike against U.S. and African Union forces. A spokesman for Al-Shabab confirmed the strike but said the actual death toll was lower (Al Jazeera). The news comes as the Obama administration announced it would release data for the first time on casualties from drone strikes abroad since 2009 (Politico). Human rights groups have frequently criticized the administration for lack of transparency on the drone strike program.
“In a democracy, the ability to use lethal force must be subject to clear and narrow limits, and the public must be able to evaluate whether those limits are being respected. Mr. Obama observed almost three years ago that ‘the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power.’ At the very least, the president has the responsibility to ensure that drone strikes are subject to meaningful oversight,” write Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman for the New York Times.
“Was Saturday's strike on the Raso camp consistent with [Obama’s 2013 drone strike] policy? Perhaps, but you do have to understand what the Administration meant, all along, by ‘continuing, imminent threat.’ Rather than meaning that harm is about to occur in a literal sense, in this context it means that there is a fleeting opportunity to carry out an airstrike against a person or group of persons whom the government thinks are certain to attack at some point down the road and there is no reason to think another and more timely window of opportunity will arise in the future. Some would say that is, by definition, not imminent,” writes Robert Chesney for Lawfare.
“Washington's primary interest in Somalia has been preventing it from becoming a refuge for terrorist groups like al-Shabab to plot attacks on the United States and potentially destabilize the strategically significant Horn of Africa, where longstanding disputes among Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia still fester. In recent years, U.S. officials have also been wary of collaboration between the militant Islamist organizations in the region, including al-Shabab, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” explains this CFR Backgrounder.
CFR-Daily News Brief