The U.S. killed a single ISIS soldier with an airstrike in Somalia on Monday. It was the 29th strike in the country since Donald Trump took office, according to figures provided to VICE News by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the 30th on the East African country in 2017 (one was launched under President Obama in January).
Monday’s air attack comes less than a week after a single airstrike by a U.S. manned aircraft killed over 100 al Shabaab militants in a training camp 125 miles northwest from the country’s capital Mogadishu.
With 29 airstrikes on Somalia in just 10 months, Trump is now within arm’s reach of Barack Obama’s eight-year total of 34.
“The strikes are coming quite frequently now,” Jack Serle, an expert in drone war at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, told VICE News. “This is unprecedented for Somalia.”
One reason for the dramatic increase: Trump has made the process of green-lighting strikes much easier by loosening restrictions meant to protect civilians, Serle said.
In 2013, Obama put rules in place that required an elaborate sign-off process by the White House before an attack could be launched outside of an active war zone. But in March, Trump cut through those precautions by declaring swaths of Somalia to be areas of “active hostilities,” according to the Bureau, thus laying the groundwork for an aggressive escalation.
The strikes have mostly focused on the al Qaeda-linked militant group al Shabaab, but in recent months has extended to ISIS, which maintains a small number of militants in the East African country.
Trump has clearly made it easier for U.S. commanders to launch strikes, but it’s not exactly clear why they’ve decided to launch so many, Serle said.
“Why they’re doing it now remains a mystery,” he said.