War Rules to Protect Civilians in Somalia Lessened

There will be more war crimes and more innocent civilian casualties by malicious U.S. military force as a result.

President Trump has relaxed some of the rules for preventing civilian casualties when the American military carries out counterterrorism strikes in Somalia, laying the groundwork for an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa.

The decision, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations, gives commanders at the United States Africa Command greater latitude to carry out offensive airstrikes and raids by ground troops against militants with the Qaeda-linked Islamist group Shabab. That sets the stage for an intensified pace of combat there, while increasing the risk that American forces could kill civilians.

Mr. Trump signed a directive on Wednesday declaring parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” where war-zone targeting rules will apply for at least 180 days, the officials said.