The decision, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations, gives commanders at the United States Africa Command greater latitude to carry out offensive airstrikes and raids by ground troops against militants with the Qaeda-linked Islamist group Shabab. That sets the stage for an intensified pace of combat there, while increasing the risk that American forces could kill civilians.
Mr. Trump signed a directive on Wednesday declaring parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” where war-zone targeting rules will apply for at least 180 days, the officials said.
The New York Times reported the Pentagon’s request for the expanded targeting authority on March 12, and Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the top officer at Africa Command, publicly acknowledged that he was seeking it at a news conference last Friday. “It’s very important and very helpful for us to have little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of
“It’s very important and very helpful for us to have little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process,” General Waldhauser said. “It allows us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”
But the willingness of the Pentagon to send more troops may prove problematic, just as it has with Afghanistan. In early April, Task & Purpose reported that U.S. AFRICOM chief Waldhauser was charged with "important piece in the next stage of the Global War on Terrorism, and with more autonomy than any U.S. AFRICOM commander has ever had in this era, he has enough rope to hang himself. The Horn of Africa has long been a bit of a trap for U.S. military operations, and special operators have been no exception."
A few weeks after the White House relaxed the rules of engagement in Somalia, the Pentagon announced that it would send "dozens" of additional ground forces to the country to help equip and train Somali military forces. Based on Mattis' statement, chances are they won't be the last.