The U.S. military’s Africa Command is seeking permission to carry out armed drone strikes in some parts of Kenya as part of efforts to fight terrorism in the region, the New York Times reports.
According to the American newspaper, several American officials confirmed that the military is seeking authority to expand drone strikes targeting Al Shabaab militants in some parts of Eastern Kenya.
The draft rules, according to the international media, will have to be approved by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and then President Trump.
The push for the extended authorities follows an Al Shabaab attack in January this year at Manda Bay which is next to “Camp Simba”, a naval base that hosts US and Kenyan military troops.
Reports indicate that the militants were trying to access the base from the Manda Airstrip.
The attack left three Americans dead and damaged property worth millions of dollars.
Following the attack, the United Kingdom (UK) issued a travel advisory for its citizens against Kenya.
Through its Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), it advised its citizens against travelling to the country, and if necessary only visit some areas.
According to the U.S. its military had obtained permission to use drone strikes to eliminate the terrorists who had attempted to attack the camp but they never attacked because the militants — retreating to Somali territory — eluded them.
After the incident, the officials recognized that they lacked guidelines to conduct drone strikes in Kenya should Shabab launch another attack hence the reason for seeking permission to expand the counterterrorism drone war into the country.
Officials who spoke to New York Times stated that the draft drone airstrike guidelines would theoretically authorize not only drone strikes in self-defense of American troops or collective self-defense of partnered Kenyan forces, but also offensive strikes intended to pre-empt a suspected threat.
Some officials expressed concerns that Kenya has a stable government and capable security forces hence is not expected to prompt the United States to carry out frequent drone strikes, if any.
The draft plan is said to contain some limitations including the U.S. being permitted to conduct strikes only in a portion of Kenya for instance in Lamu and Garissa counties.
Additionally, the U.S. government will also seek consent from Kenyan authorities before launching any attack. This is a major difference from Somalia, whose provisional government has given America blanket permission to carry out strikes when it sees fit.
In his visit to the White House in February this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have requested President Trump in February for additional counterterrorism assistance, including “armed aerial support” to help combat the Shabab.