“They were not armed nor were they al-Shabab members,” said Ibrahim Ahmed, who said he was a family member of one man killed…I don’t understand why a farm would make a target for a raid,” he added, pointing at one of the bloodied bodies that had been laid out on the ground outside a hospital in the capital, Mogadishu.
“The Somali government must ask questions about this brutal raid on innocent farmers who were sleeping when they were killed,” said Shamey Yusuf, another elder. “
O’ROURKE: There was a report this last summer about a raid in Somalia that was supported by the U.S. military as reported, and reported that 10 civilians, including three children, were killed there. The follow-up from the Pentagon was that you all were investigating — or that the Pentagon was investigating that attack. Can you tell us a little bit about the repercussions of that?
WALDHAUSER: I’m sure you’re referring to the incident in Bariire, where immediately upon — where our forces were not — were not involved in direct combat. But there were casualties there, and immediately it became very unclear, as it happens most — almost every time when there’s a strike in Somalia with regards to an [information operation] campaign from the enemy. We did conduct an inquiry into that, and, you know, some of the issues that were brought up with children and women and that — and that just didn’t happen, right? I mean, just — the investigation, the facts just weren’t there.
We had received — there were several media articles on that particular topic, and I just decided at that point in time — so it’s kind of a dilemma.
I mean, if you react to every item that shows up on social media, we would spend our entire day trying to hit back things that weren’t — weren’t true. But there were some — several media articles, and in this particular case, in order to demonstrate transparency, I just decided to have an investigation take place. And there is one ongoing right now by — by NCIS to do that.
So we just said we looked into it. The facts as — the facts as we have known don’t support some of the things that were out there. So let an — let an agency take care of it. But we’re confident that this — our case is going to be accurate, but if it’s not, we’ll take the appropriate action…
…But the bottom line is the clan dynamics, the information campaign from Al-Shabaab in the social media, is something that is very, very difficult for us. And we have to be aware of it. We have to combat it all the time. Because — because they have an inordinate amount of just false information that they put out all the time as part of their strategy.
So, Waldhauser essentially labels recent civilian casualties as claims fabricated by al-Shabaab and highlights how the terror groups is able to exploit clan relationships to advance its preferred narratives.
But it is insufficient for AFRICOM to call any negative portrayal of U.S. actions as simply “al-Shabaab propaganda.” In order to be perceived as a reliable communicator, AFRICOM has to maintain its credibility — which can only be achieved through accountability and transparency about its actions that go beyond cursory denials.
If there is al-Shabaab disinformation circulating in the Somali blogosphere, AFRICOM should provide evidence of the mis-reporting.