Ilhan Omar Demands Answers From White House on Airstrike in Somalia

Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, is pushing back on Democratic President Joe Biden's administration's decision to airstrike in Somalia.

The Pentagon has claimed the strike was targeted against suspected members of the al-Shabab East-African terrorist organization.

"I have been deeply engaged on this question throughout my time in Congress, not only focused on the legal merits of individual strikes, but on how our militarized counter-terrorism approach to al-Shabaab fits into our overall strategy and policy towards Somalia," Omar wrote in a letter to the White House on Friday. "In that respect, it is noteworthy that this week also saw reporting on the family members of Somali civilians killed by airstrikes conducted under the Trump Administration being unable to contact U.S. authorities or receive the condolence payments for which Congress has repeatedly appropriated funds."

"There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation," she continued.

Defense Department spokesperson Cindi King said in a statement: "U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces. U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in support of combatant commander-designated partner forces under collective self-defense."

Ilhan Omar questions Biden strike on Somolia
Rep. Ilhan Omar has questioned the Biden administration's decision to conduct an airstrike in Somalia. Here, Omar speaks at a rally near the U.S. Capitol on June 29, 2021, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

The Jan. 19 airstrike was the last airstrike on Somalia before this, under then-President Donald Trump and his U.S-centric plan that tried to remove officers from other countries.

Omar, whose family fled war-torn Somalia to a Kenyan refugee camp and then came to the United States as a child, has become one of the youngest people ever elected to Congress. As a Muslim refugee and part of the left progressive flank, she's frequently drawn the ire of her conservative opponents.

Omar's office referred Newsweek to her previous comments on the matter.

The White House and Defense Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden Defense Department has defended the move.

"There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation," Defense Department spokesperson Cindi King said in a statement. "U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces. U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in support of combatant commander-designated partner forces under collective self-defense."

According to reports, the United States last month conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabab in Somalia—the first such strike under Biden.

The Intercept reported that "The strike on Somalia occurred amid growing mobilization in the House of Representatives and Senate to reclaim oversight of the extensive war powers the White House has amassed since 9/11."

Congress has been reviewing what's going on.

Omar, a Democrat newcomer who is one of the first Muslims to serve in Congress and the first refuge, has been a target for the far-right that claims her Muslim origins threaten her commitment to America, but she won wide support for her reelection campaign last year.