Sunday, February 25, 2018
Military News

Pentagon gets approval for more aggressive airstrikes in Somalia

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has granted the U.S. military more authority to go after al-Qaida linked militants in Somalia, approving a Pentagon request to allow more aggressive airstrikes, officials said Thursday.

Trump's decision, which was made Wednesday but not immediately announced, allows U.S. special operations forces to accompany Somali National Army troops and other African allies as they move closer to the fight, enabling them to call in offensive airstrikes quicker.

Portions of southern Somalia, excluding the capital Mogadishu, will be considered a war zone, officials said. That designation gives U.S. forces on the ground the authority to call in offensive airstrikes, rather than waiting for approval by higher level commanders.

In a statement Thursday, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the additional U.S. support will help "increase pressure on al-Shabab and reduce the risk to our partner forces when they conduct operations."

The Associated Press first reported the Pentagon's request for greater authority in February.

Somalia has been without a truly functioning government for 2½ decades, its vast ungoverned spaces allowing extremist groups to gather and train. Al-Shabab has carried out deadly attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere. Attacks on military bases in the past two years have slowed joint African Union-Somali offensives against the group.

Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, told members of Congress last week he wouldn't turn Somalia into a "free fire zone." He stressed the need for "more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process" to strike al-Shabab and weaken it.

He dismissed suggestions the change could cause more civilian casualties

The new guidelines pertain to U.S. assistance of Somali and African Union troops, not unilateral American missions in the Horn of Africa country.

About 50 U.S. commandos have been rotating in and out of Somalia to advise and assist local troops. That number could now increase slightly at certain times, said officials, who weren't authorized to discuss the decision publicly and requested anonymity

Somalia is grappling with a devastating famine that has uprooted citizens around the country. The movement of so many people around the battlefield in search of food and water could make strikes more challenging, but the military says it has been preparing appropriately.

There have been no changes to ease rules of engagement or allow for possibility of greater civilian casualties, military officials said. Faster military decisions run that risk, but much of the area now considered a warzone is sparsely populated.

Rules for airstrikes in other areas of Somalia haven't changed, the officials said.

In an AP interview last month, Waldhauser called Somalia his region's "most perplexing challenge." He said the U.S. was seeking a "fresh perspective" amid concern that some fighters have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, illustrating the danger of militants fleeing battlefields in Iraq and Syria for haven in Somalia.

Comments
Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

PALM HARBOR — Four years ago, during a visit to Tampa, Iraqi Staff Gen. Talib Shgati Mshari Al Kenani issued a warning to military leaders here about a jihadi group calling itself the Islamic State.This week, Al Kenani, head of the Iraqi commando for...
Published: 02/23/18
Howard Altman: Expert from Lutz finds U.S. ill prepared for conflict in Korea

Howard Altman: Expert from Lutz finds U.S. ill prepared for conflict in Korea

Rick Lamb, who spent a good part of the past two years in South Korea assessing the state of U.S. forces on the peninsula, was taken aback by what he discovered. "Overall, I was surprised how much it atrophied," said Lamb, a retired Army Ranger comm...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Syria’s starved, rebellious suburb under attack

Syria’s starved, rebellious suburb under attack

BEIRUT — The airstrikes came at a rate of one a minute, with horrible results: civilians fleeing collapsing buildings, children trapped under slabs of concrete, paramedics grimly rushing the bloodied victims away on stretchers. At least 100 people we...
Published: 02/20/18
Global commandos flock to Palm Harbor to discuss future of Special Operations

Global commandos flock to Palm Harbor to discuss future of Special Operations

Commando leaders from around the globe are coming to Pinellas County this week to discuss common threats in an increasingly unstable world.Most European Union members "are either growing or reinforcing" their special operations forces, French Maj. Ge...
Published: 02/20/18
Global commandos flock to Palm Harbor to discuss future of Special Operations

Global commandos flock to Palm Harbor to discuss future of Special Operations

Commando leaders from around the globe are coming to Pinellas County this week to discuss common threats in an increasingly unstable world.Most European Union members "are either growing or reinforcing" their special operations forces, French Maj. Ge...
Published: 02/20/18
ISIS ambush kills at least 27 Iraqi Shiite-led fighters

ISIS ambush kills at least 27 Iraqi Shiite-led fighters

BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants ambushed a group of Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary fighters, killing at least 27, more than two months after Baghdad declared victory over the extremist group, officials said Monday The Popular Mobilization Forces, a...
Published: 02/19/18
Planning begins for Warrior Games coming to Tampa in 2019

Planning begins for Warrior Games coming to Tampa in 2019

TAMPA — Army Gen. Raymond A. "Tony" Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, had a court-side epiphany last July at the United Center in Chicago while watching the annual Department of Defense Warrior Games. So impressed w...
Published: 02/19/18
Howard Altman: Later AirFest good for fundraising

Howard Altman: Later AirFest good for fundraising

On May 12 and 13, the skies above MacDill Air Force Base will be busier than usual, with Navy F-18s, Air Force F-22s and A-10s and a host of civilian stunt pilots performing impressive feats of aerobatics.It’s all part of the semi-regular Tampa Bay C...
Published: 02/16/18
VA chief Shulkin, staff misled ethics officials about European trip, report finds

VA chief Shulkin, staff misled ethics officials about European trip, report finds

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general ...
Published: 02/14/18
Trump seeks 11 percent SOCom budget increase

Trump seeks 11 percent SOCom budget increase

President Donald Trump’s proposed military budget includes a nearly 11 percent spending increase for U.S. Special Operations Command headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base.The measure, if approved by Congress, would bump up the command’s budget by 1...
Published: 02/12/18