The United States carried out an aircraft and drone attack at Raso, Somalia, on Saturday that killed 150 members of the militia group al-Shabab.
Administration officials said the strike was conducted in anticipation of an al-Shabab assault on American interests or theAfrican Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, which the United States finances and advises.
Americans should be troubled by the deadly attack for several reasons.
• Although the Pentagon claims there weren’t any civilian casualties and that all of the victims were Islamic militants, that is hard to believe.
The U.S. military acknowledged that the attack on the al-Shabab training camp occurred during a graduation ceremony. Were any civilians in attendance? Who knows?
• The assault is the latest U.S. military strike in a decades-long failed effort to install a sustainable government after the collapse of authority in Somalia in 1991. The collapse triggered a humanitarian crisis that led to many deaths from hunger and disease. The East African country now has an unelected government, protected by 21,500 foreign troops including U.S. Special Operations forces, that is under constant attack by al-Shabab.
• The effort to prop up Somalia has cost American taxpayers a lot of money, including the millions of dollars needed to maintain what has become a major U.S. military base in neighboring Djibouti, the former French Somaliland.
• Finally, and perhaps what should be the biggest concern for Americans, is that such a major attack on al-Shabab militants risks provoking a revenge assault on the United States. It would be foolish for the United States to imagine that such an attack could not occur.
If these concerns are sound, the next questions have to be, first, why was Saturday’s attack carried out, and, second, why is the U.S. still involved in an expensive, unsuccessful effort in Somalia?