The U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is seeking permission to extend its authority in order to carry out armed drone strikes against al-Shabaab in some parts of eastern Kenya, according to the NY Times.
This move is designed to give AFRICOM more flexibility in hitting the terrorist group whenever it advances from its enclaves in Somalia. The details are still being worked out but the request will have to be approved by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and then President Trump.
The push for the extended authorities is seen as a response to the deadly al-Shabaab attack in January of this year. The attack occurred at Camp Simba, which houses 200 troops and 100 U.S. contractors, as well as Kenyan troops. The attack left three Americans dead and damaged aircraft and property worth millions of dollars. Camp Simba is located in Lamu County in eastern Kenya close to Somalia.
After the attack, the U.S. obtained authority for a drone strike and tried to track al-Shabaab so it could counterattack. But the group escaped and safely made it back to Somalia.
AFRICOM recognized, after the incident, that it lacked the guidelines to conduct drone strikes in Kenya if any al-Shabaab fighters again crossed into Kenyan territory.
The Trump administration has relaxed the more stringent limits on drone strikes put down by the Obama administration. Nevertheless, the Pentagon has been seeking more flexibility to conduct drone strikes.