Opinion: Welcome to Joe Biden’s Somalia war

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President JOE BIDEN’s war in Somalia has begun, and he didn’t even launch it.

On Tuesday, U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. STEPHEN TOWNSEND authorized a single drone strike against al-Shabaab militants attacking an American-trained elite Somali force known as the Danab. While no U.S. troops accompanied the Somalis during the operation near Galkayo, Pentagon spokesperson CINDI KING told NatSec Daily that Townsend has the authority under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter “to conduct collective self-defense of partner forces.”

“There was an imminent threat,” King said, so Townsend ordered the hit with the Somali government’s approval — but without consulting with the White House.

Sen. TIM KAINE (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, expressed his reservations about the justification to NatSec Daily.

“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,” the senator said. “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.”

OONA HATHAWAY, a Yale Law School professor and former DOD lawyer, told NatSec Daily she found the administration’s argument “puzzling from a legal perspective.”

“Under international law, the U.S. doesn’t need a self-defense justification if it is acting with the consent of the Somali government. They likely phrased it this way, then, because they are concerned about domestic legal authority,” Hathaway said.

She continued: “The President is generally thought to have limited authority to act in the self defense of the country. … First, this would be a pretty significant reach for Article II authority. Second, in 2016, al-Shabaab was deemed to fall under the 2001 AUMF, so they would not need to resort to an Article II argument.”

Beyond the legalese, there are two main points to note about Tuesday’s airstrike. One, it was the first time since Jan. 19 — when DONALD TRUMP was president and just after he withdrew 700 troops from the country — that the U.S. struck inside Somalia. Two, Biden didn’t order the strike, even though he’s now the latest president to continue America’s fight there. (The White House declined to comment and kept referring us to the Pentagon.)

The strike comes as the Biden administration put a temporary hold on drone strikes outside of active war zones when it came into office on Jan. 20, but per DOD’s King this “collective self-defense” bombing didn’t require White House approval.

The short-term question is if the attack on the Danab will prompt the administration to consider reversing Trump’s troop withdrawal from Somalia. If that’s the case, it’d be the first time the president sent more American service members into a war zone to aid a fight.

The longer-term question is if Biden will continue to give his commanders the greenlight to strike. Trump famously gave the military “total authorization” to attack when deemed necessary, reversing the centralized strike-approval process of the Obama years. The White House already has refused some of AFRICOM’s requests to strike the terror group, the New York Times reported, and administration officials and Congressional staff reached out to NatSec Daily to ponder if that’s the new normal or if that will change.

Discretion; The views expressed by the author does not necessary mean it reflects the views of MTV Somali Channel.

Read More: US launches airstrikes in Somalia targeting Al Shabab fighters 

Read More: Opinion: Is Joe Biden starting a Horn of Africa spring?

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