Acting with Ethiopia, Kenya and a transitional Somali government in coordinated military operations, U.S. aircraft attacked suspected al-Qaida fighters in Somalia this week. The effort marks a welcome return to fighting an intelligence war that targets terror network leaders and training camps.
The attack sites on Monday included the city of Hayi, where extremists were reported to be gathered, and a remote island believed to contain a terrorist training camp. The main target there was believed to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 225 people. Ethiopian forces, meanwhile, may have killed the head of al-Qaida's Somalia group, Abu Talha al-Sudani.
In attacks Tuesday, helicopters and an airborne gunship opened fire on suspected al-Qaida fighters in the southern part of the country, on the Horn of Africa. Reports say at least 31 civilians, including two newlyweds, were also killed.
Clearly, this kind of operation is sensitive and must be carried out carefully. But while the war in Iraq's connection to American interests is long term, at best, the nation's interests are clearly served by sending the blunt message that those who plan or carry out terror attacks on the United States can never again let down their guard because they will be pursued relentlessly.
That is what seems to be happening now in Somalia, where the last American military engagement, in 1993, ended in the humiliating "Black Hawk Down" episode in Mogadishu, costing the lives of 18 servicemen.
Details are still coming in on these attacks, and at this point, Americans can only hope they will describe an appropriately conceived and executed mission with specific, achievable goals. Assuming that will be the case, this looks like a legitimate use of American military power.