WASHINGTON — Al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain as much of a threat to the U.S. as "it has ever been" after the terrorist group rebuilt itself while the U.S. and other nations focused on destroying ISIS in Iraq and Syria, a State Department official said Thursday.
"Al-Qaeda has been strategic and patient over the past several years," Nathan Sales, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said at a briefing in Washington. "It's let ISIS absorb the brunt of the world's counterterrorism efforts while patiently reconstituting itself. What we see today is an al-Qaeda that is as strong as it has ever been."
President Donald Trump has ramped up airstrikes against al-Shabab in Somalia. (Associated Press/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
The U.S. military could be guilty of war crimes in Somalia, according to a new report that challenges what the government says about civilian casualties from its bombing campaign against al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliate, in the African nation.
The investigation, conducted by Amnesty International, found that US airstrikes from both drones and manned aircraft killed at least 14 civilians and injured seven more people in just five of more than 100 strikes in the past two years.
"The attacks appear to have violated international humanitarian law, and some may amount to war crimes," the Amnesty report said.
Al Shabab jihadists launched a vicious attack on a military base in Somalia on June 8, killing nearly 70 and reportedly beheading civilians in what Somali army officials described to the Associated Press as “the region’s deadliest attack in years.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated on Thursday that the Pentagon is open to sending additional U.S. troops to Somalia to fight the al Shabab terror group and train the Somali in combatting the al Qaeda offshoot.
The United States is primed for an increase in military operations in the Horn of Africa after President Donald J. Trump relaxed standards governing the rules of engagement last week. This move grants the military more authority in Somalia in the fight against al Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked terror organization based in the region.