(GPA) Washington – President Obama has used the powers granted by congress after 9-11 to combat al-Qaeda to expand the war on terror to Somalia.
It was announced on Sunday that the Obama administration would officially declare the fight against al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab as a part of the growing war on terror. The move was made to provide more “legal” legitimacy to drone strikes and bombings already being carried out in the Horn of Africa.
The original declaration of war that Obama is looking to operate under was made after September 11th, 2001 to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This was one of the concerns of many of those opposed to the war on terror; that fighting an ideology would make for a potentially endless and borderless war. Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda affiliate but was not even in existence at the time the declaration of war on al-Qaeda was passed.
The operations in Somalia would be assisting African Union, Somali and Kenyan troops in a legitimate fight against a terror group but the concern from many is the expansion of power this declaration allows. The other issue many have is that in the past several years, drone strikes haven’t just been used on actual terrorist cells.
Drone strikes were first stepped up in Afghanistan to allow the targeting of anyone “impeding reconstruction efforts of the Afghan government.” Later, drone operations were expanded to Africa, starting in Libya when the city of Sirte was declared an “area of active hostilities.”
After the US was allowed into Libya by a government that isn’t even recognized by all Libyans or world leaders, they took it as a green light to begin stepping up operations in Africa. Documents released by The Intercept in September revealed the US intends to make strikes in Africa a long term strategy with the construction of a new $100m drone base in Niger.
The US was already carrying out airstrikes in Somalia under the rules of “self-defense” by allying themselves with any country on the continent hit by a terrorist organization. Under the current rules, Somalia could not be labeled an “area of active hostilities” but through the Shabaab connections to al-Qaeda, the US can justify strikes as part of the wider war on the parent group by adding the African group to the list of “perpetrators of 9/11.”
Reasoning like this is probably why groups like al-Nusra in Syria have “cut ties” with al-Qaeda (besides wanting to receive western arms). It’s not quite clear why Obama is making an official declaration against a group he’s already been bombing for several years just two months before he leaves office but it does show that the US can find legal justifications to expand their war on terror.
Regardless of why Obama created this legal umbrella to make a new front in the war official, it will also expand to incoming President Trump. This will give any future presidents the ability to continue to wage war almost anywhere free of any slight chance of retribution they had. Although the expansion is nothing new, it does confirm that the empire intends for this “war” to carry on for a long time.