The latest growing battlefield is in Somalia, and it threatens to spiral out of control just like so many other undeclared war zones before it. From the NY Times:
WASHINGTON — The escalating American military engagement in Somalia has led the Obama administration to expand the legal scope of the war against Al Qaeda, a move that will strengthen President-elect Donald J. Trump's authority to combat thousands of Islamist fighters in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.Is it "a move that will strengthen President-elect Donald J. Trump's authority to combat thousands," or is it a move that will allow Trump to also engage in endless, unconstitutional war?
The administration has decided to deem the Shabab, the Islamist militant group in Somalia, to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials. The move is intended to shore up the legal basis for an intensifying campaign of airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations, carried out largely in support of African Union and Somali government forces.Would you look at that. Shabab didn't even exist on 9/11, yet Obama is using 9/11 authority against al-Qaeda to wage war without Congressional approval. He is literally creating new al-Qaeda out of thin air.
The executive branch's stretching of the 2001 war authorization against the original Al Qaeda to cover other Islamist groups in countries far from Afghanistan — even ones, like the Shabab, that did not exist at the time — has prompted recurring objections from some legal and foreign policy experts.
The Shabab decision is expected to be publicly disclosed next month in a letter to Congress listing global deployments. It is part of the Obama administration's pattern of relaxing various self-imposed rules for airstrikes against Islamist militants as it tries to help its partner forces in several conflicts.A "letter to Congress." This perfectly demonstrates how utterly castrated the legislative branch has become.
But it's not just Somalia of course. Obama uses his "pen" to expand war all over the planet.
In June, the administration quietly broadened the military's authority to carry out airstrikes in Afghanistan to encompass operations intended "to achieve strategic effects," meaning targeting people impeding the work of Afghan government forces, officials said. Previously, strikes in Afghanistan were permitted only in self-defense, for counterterrorism operations targeting Qaeda or Islamic State forces, or to "prevent a strategic defeat" of Afghan forces.It's "constantly evolving" because insane U.S. foreign policy constantly creates more of them.
Later in the summer, the administration deemed Surt, Libya, an "area of active hostilities," after the Libyan prime minister asked for assistance in dislodging Islamic State militants from that city. The move exempted the area from 2013 rules that restrict drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations away from battlefield zones, which President Obama had announced in a major speech that year that sought to turn a page in the long-running war against Al Qaeda.
As of last week, the Pentagon had carried out 420 airstrikes against militants in Surt since August.
The Shabab grew up as an Islamist insurgency after 2007, when Ethiopia, with American support, invaded Somalia to overthrow an Islamist council that had briefly taken control of much of the long-chaotic country.
The officials familiar with the internal deliberations spoke on the condition of anonymity. In a statement, Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, emphasized that the terrorist threat "is constantly evolving and requires an adaptable response."
Some experts criticized the administration for using a 15-year-old congressional authorization as a justification to go to war with the Shabab.This disturbing use of 9/11 authority to battle groups that have little to do with al-Qaeda, and didn't even exist at the time of the terror attacks, is a topic I've covered several times in the past. Here are a few examples:
"It's crazy that a piece of legislation that was grounded specifically in the experience of 9/11 is now being repurposed for close air support for regional security forces in Somalia," said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
In 2014, for example, Mr. Obama declared that the 2001 law authorized him to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. An Army captain rejected that claim and argued that the Islamic State war was illegal because Congress had never explicitly approved it. Last week, a judge dismissed that lawsuit, without ruling on its merits.
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