The head of the U.S. Africa Command on Friday said he has yet to receive authority from President Trump to launch airstrikes against terrorists in Somalia.
Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said it will be “very important and very helpful” for the Trump administration to expand his authorities in order to defeat al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate militant group in Somalia.
The additional authority would add “a little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision making process,” he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing.
“It will allow us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion,” Waldhauser said. “Our ability to strike al Shabaab targets in this particular instance will have an impact on their ability to continue what they’re trying to do.”
He added that “the White House has not approved anything on this yet.”
The Pentagon has a small number of troops in Somalia and is allowed to carry out strikes in defense of partnered forces.
The Trump administration, however, is considering new rules to give commanders more power in order to act more quickly.
But if such authority is approved, Waldhauser said the U.S. military has a “very, very strong requirement” to use such power in a way that minimizes civilian casualties.
“We are not going to turn Somalia into a free fire zone,” he said.