Donald Trump continues use of special forces, keeping wars at arm’s length

MARA, CHAD: From Yemen to Syria to here in Central Africa, the Trump administration is relying on Special Operations forces to intensify its promised fight against the Islamic State group and other terrorist groups as senior officials embrace an Obama-era strategy to minimize the U.S. military’s footprint overseas.

In Africa, President Donald Trump is expected to soon approve a Pentagon proposal to remove constraints on Special Operations airstrikes and raids in parts of Somalia to target suspected militants with al-Shabab, an extremist group linked to al-Qaida. Critics say that the change — in one of the few rejections of President Barack Obama’s guidelines for the elite forces — would bypass rules that seek to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks and commando operations.

But in their two months in office, Trump officials have shown few other signs that they want to back away from Obama’s strategy to train, equip and otherwise support indigenous armies and security forces to fight their own wars instead of having to deploy large US forces to far-flung hot spots.

“Africans are at war; we’re not,” said Col. Kelly Smith, 47, a Green Beret commander who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a director of a counter-terrorism exercise in Chad this month involving about 2,000 African and Western troops and trainers. “But we have a strategic interest in the success of partners.”

Trump came to office without a clearly articulated philosophy for using the military to fight terrorist groups. He had promised to be more aggressive in taking on the Islamic State — even suggesting during the presidential campaign that he had a secret plan — but had also signaled a desire to rein in the notion of the United States as the world’s peacekeeper and claimed at various points to have opposed the ground invasion of Iraq.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *