Advocates Urge Civilian Protections as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

Human Rights WatchFriday’s protest urged the U.S. to prioritize protecting Somali civilians. President Joe Biden had signed off on the redeploying of hundreds of Special Forces troops from war-torn African country. In recent decades, American drones and other airstrikes killed at least dozens of noncombatants.

John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary announced earlier this week that a “small, persistent U.S. military presence” of around 500 troops would return to Somalia 17 months after then-President Donald Trump withdrewThe approximately 750 American soldiers who were present in the country to wage and support the so-called War on Terror (under United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)). Since the 2000s, the U.S. has been pursuing the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militant organization Al-Shabaab. bombedSomalia in February

“U.S. officials should be very clear on how their forces will avoid harming Somali civilians during military operations,” Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), saidin a statement. “They will need to work closely with Somali and African Union authorities to avoid repeating past laws of war violations and promptly and appropriately respond to civilian loss.”

Since 2004, at least 200 U.S. drone strikes have been conducted, along with a variety of other aerial bombardments of Somalia. according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, London. The U.K. monitor group Airwars says U.S. drones, warplanes, and bombers have claimed the lives of at least 68 Somali civilians since 2007.

“Human Rights Watch reported on two U.S. airstrikes, on February 2 and March 10, 2020, that killed seven civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war,” HRW notes. “While the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) acknowledged responsibility for the February 2 incident, which killed a woman and injured her two sisters, both children, and her grandmother, none of them received compensation.”

“AFRICOM has, in recent years, offered some level of transparency around civilian casualty assessments, notably publishing quarterly civilian casualty assessment reports since April 2020,” the group continues. “However, these still fall far short of what is needed to ensure credible justice for victims, including for past cases.”

Bader lamented that “a culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state.”

“The U.S. government recognizes the need to credibly investigate and compensate for civilian harm, but the military has yet to make this a reality,” she added.

HRW stated that Somalia must be included on the Civilian Harm Mitigation & Response Action Plan announced January amid by Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary progressive pressure On the Pentagon to consider the staggering number of non-combatants killed by U.S. ammunition and bombs.

The U.S. military has killed far more foreign civilians in 20 years of fighting the War on Terror than any other armed force on this planet. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, nearly 400,000 civilian men, women, and children have been killed in the U.S.-led post-9/11 wars.