U.S. military admits to killing Galmudug local forces in Somalia
SPECIAL REPORT | U.S. admission of mistakenly killing pro-government Somali troops exposes deepening U.S. military involvement in Somalia and the risk of U.S. military action undermining years of counter-terrorism efforts.
The U.S. military’s AFRICOM (Africa Command) has admitted to killing 10 Somali soldiers serving the Galmudug regional state in central Somalia.
The U.S. military originally claimed that the Sept. 28th attack was a “self-defense air strike” that killed Al Shabaab militants. Reuters reported that the U.S. military investigation “determined they were local militia forces” working for the Galmudug administration allied to the Federal Government of Somalia.
The soldiers were killed in an area east of Galkayo, which straddles the territorial jurisdiction between Puntland in the north, and Galmudug in the south.
The Washington Postreported that Puntland troops commenced a security operation accompanied by American military advisers to investigate a suspicious group of armed men, in eastern Mudug region. The Puntland-U.S. force reportedly came under fire and U.S. advisers requested air support
However, AFRICOM ruled that the air strike was “legitimate” as it saved the lives of U.S. advisers and allied Puntland local forces.
It is not clear what impact the attack will have on security cooperation between the U.S. military and Galmudug. On September 30th, Somalia’s Western-backed federal government in Mogadishu requested U.S. explanation of the air strike and Galmudug has demanded compensation from the U.S.
The U.S. military’s attack has the unintended consequence of involving the world’s largest military force amidst local clan and territorial disputes.
One of the attack survivors told the Washington Post: “I believed that the U.S. was neutral, but now it seems to me that they have sided with one of two clans”.
Puntland and Galmudug have a long history of non-political and political violence. For years, local clans clashed over grazing lands and engaged in territorial claims and counter-claims, routinely leading to clan and militia violence.
But in recent years, Puntland and Galmudug officials have politicized land disputes and exploited clan sentiments, with the two sides currently locked in conflict near Galkayo for the second month in a row.
Somalia’s nascent federal government, which first came to power in 2004, has not determined official state boundaries and has yet to explicitly clarify power sharing between federal and state governments. In this fluid legal and political environment, federal and state governments have used vague constitutional articles to pursue their own political agendas, presenting different challenges for external actors.