Kirsters Baish| Opinion | Democratic Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar insisted during a Thursday House panel hearing that President Donald Trump “has dramatically intensified American airstrikes in her native Somalia that have killed hundreds of members of the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab,” according to Breitbart News.
Omar described herself as “an African” on the committee, suggesting that the White House should “reassess” their methods in dealing with al-Shabaab and other Somalian jihadis.
The Democratic Representative’s comments came during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing during which she told the Trump administration witnesses who were asked to testify, “I just wanted to really get into this horrific reign of terror and its spread in Africa, and we oftentimes are really dealing with this issue, and it seems that we are attempting to drone it to death. … In Somalia, particularly in dealing with al-Shabaab, since President Trump has gotten elected, the number of drones have increased, but the number of attacks al-Shabaab has been able to carry out has also tripled. We also know the same to be true for Boko Haram.”
On the African continent, the United States military only carries out direct airstrikes in Libya and Somalia. The U.S. does not directly target the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group, but it does support local efforts against the jihadis.
“There is sort of a direct correlation between our droning, and the increase of their [jihadis] assaults. And their recruitment seems to increase because of some of the civilian casualties that take place,” Omar stressed.
Breitbart News was unable to verify Omar’s assertion that the U.S. air campaign has led to an increase in terrorist attacks and recruitment.
Citing Pentagon data, the Long War Journal reported in March that U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabaab, not attacks by the group as Omar indicated, are “on pace to nearly triple last year’s record number of airstrikes” dropped on the group.
Acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for African American Affairs at the United States Department of Defense, Michelle Lenihan, testified during the hearing, explaining to Omar that drone strikes are just a “minor component” of the way America is trying to help bring some stability to Somalia.
The Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute argued in November of 2018 that the increase in U.S. airstrikes made al-Shabaab change its tactics, ending in in “fewer” attacks in Somalia.
At this time, the Institute did make note that the terrorist group was working to adapt to the “increasingly lethal air campaign.”
In March, citizens living in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu saw multiple car bombs and suicide attacks committed by al-Shabaab.
Breitbart explains that “Omar claimed that comments attributed to Trump by Democrat anonymous sources and rebuked by the president make it difficult for African countries to partner with the United States.”
She proclaimed, “All of you talked about the partnership that needs to happen in order for us to have greater influence in Africa, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that, as an African on this committee, when you have a president who uses language like ‘shit hole countries,’ it makes it really hard for people in Africa to sort of think of themselves as being partners with the United States, and so I hope that we are in the business of developing better relations.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Democratic Representative Andy Levin of Michigan pointed out that “The U.S. has dramatically increased airstrikes to counter al-Shabaab in Somalia since April of 2017. We carried out more airstrikes in Somalia in the last nine months of 2017 than in the five years from 2012 to 2016. Then there were 47 in 2018 and almost 30 just in the first quarter of 2019.”
Late last year, the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) Global Terrorism Index (GTI) revealed that Africa is home to half of the top ten countries with the highest increase in the number of terror-linked fatalities from 2016 to 2017 — Somalia, Egypt, Central African Republic, Mali, and Kenya.
“The country with the largest total increase in terrorism compared to the prior year was Somalia where the number of deaths rose by 708, a 93 percent increase,” the GTI revealed.
“Since al-Shabaab’s first external attack in 2010, the group has killed hundreds through external operations, with the most lethal attacks occurring in Kenya and Uganda,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, one of the top commanders in Africa, told lawmakers earlier this year.