US lawmaker Ilhan Omar condemns Biden over strike in Somalia

2021-07-25 21:50:35
US lawmaker Ilhan Omar condemns Biden over strike in Somalia

US lawmaker Ilhan Omar, a Muslim member of the lower house of Congress, is challenging President Joe Biden’s decision to carry airstrikes in Somalia this week.

The strike, carried out by a drone on Tuesday, was the first in Somalia since Biden took office in January and came despite stated plans by the White House to limit such operations, while the administration reviews the policy on drone strikes and commando raids in places that are not considered active war zones.

“I have been deeply engaged on this question throughout my time in Congress, not only focused on the legal merits of individual strikes, but on how our militarized counter-terrorism approach to al-Shabaab fits into our overall strategy and policy towards Somalia,” the Somali-American congresswoman, wrote in the letter to the White House.

Omar, who grew in Somalia and before spending four years in a Kenyan refugee camp, was brought to the United States by her family as a child. She is the first Muslim Somali-American woman elected to Congress and an outspoken critic of US militarism.

In her letter, the congresswoman also criticized the White House for a failure to make promised reparation payments to families of civilians killed in American airstrikes in Somalia.

“In that respect, it is noteworthy that this week also saw reporting on the family members of Somali civilians killed by airstrikes conducted under the Trump administration being unable to contact U.S. authorities or receive the condolence payments for which Congress has repeatedly appropriated funds,” she wrote.

The administration of former President Donald Trump had set broad rules for strikes in countries such as Somalia and Libya. He delegated authority to commanders in the field about when to carry them out.

But Biden reversed the policy and put new limits on strikes outside active war zones. Proposals for strikes are now generally routed through the White House.

Under the Trump administration, airstrikes in Somalia increased dramatically with no apparent gains in either weakening al-Shabaab, advancing Somali security and stability.

Human rights groups have long called for an end to the US drone strikes that Washington claims are conducted against terrorists. Last month, more than 100 organizations in the US and around the world urged Biden to put an end to "the unlawful program of lethal strikes outside any recognized battlefield."


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