US launches ‘self-defense strike’ against Shabaab in southern Somalia

The Obama administration and US military leaders continue to attempt to hide direct combat operations behind the mission of advising and assisting the “counterterrorism operations” of foreign governments and militaries. United States African Command, or AFRICOM, announced today that it launched what it described as “a self-defense strike” against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, to protect US advisors who were accompanying a Somali counterterrorism force.

From the AFRICOM press release:

On September 26, in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted a self-defense strike against al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-associated terrorist group, in Caba, near Kismayo, Somalia.

During a Somali-led counterterrorism operation, a group of armed al-Shabaab fighters attacked, threatening the safety and security of the Somali force and their U.S. advisors. Somali forces returned fire in self-defense, killing several militants. However, enemy fighters continued to attack the Somali force. In response, the U.S. conducted a self-defense strike to neutralize the threat, killing four (4) enemy fighters.

Garowe Online, a Somali news source, said that the raid targeted “Shabaab training camps” and that “several high-ranking Al Shabaab commanders were nabbed in the military operation which also left 5 militants dead.”

AFRICOM’s latest so-called self-defense strike against Shabaab highlights the difference between the rhetoric and the reality of the Obama administration and the US military’s deployment of forces against jihadist groups overseas. The administration and the military often insist that US forces are deployed in countries such as Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen in a purely “advise and assist” role and are not engaging in combat operations. And yet, in the case of the Somali raid that targeted Shabaab training camps, US forces clearly are operating in a combat environment — if you raid an al Qaeda camp, you should expect to be engaged in direct fighting. In this instance, clearly AFRICOM was prepared for forces to engage in battle, as US air assets were on station.

Shabaab isn’t merely a terrorist group that operates on the cellular level and can be taken out with a series of pinpoint counterterrorism operations. Shabaab possesses a military, an intelligence service, and an administrative service (it routinely advertises the latter), and holds a significant amount of territory, which it governs. Calling the Somali raid a “counterterrorism operation” and the accompanying US airstrike a “self-defense strike” is a weak attempt to mask the fact that Somalia is at war with an entrenched enemy, and the US military is actively fighting in that war.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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5 Comments

  • Frank Dunn says:

    It was interesting to hear NBC’s Lester Holt raise this issue of Obama deceiving Americans about unauthorized wars in at least 5 countries as well as the Afghanistan war Obama claimed he ended in 2014 during Monday’s debate. This segment dominated the evening, with Mrs Clinton repeatedly blaming Bush and Trump for these military strikes. When Trump tried to explain that he was a private citizen, Clinton denounced him for “Not paying income taxes for these wars, I mean ‘self-defense’ actions.”

    Oceania has always used self-defense against Eurasia.

  • Arjuna says:

    The lying doesn’t bother me so much as the utter ineffectiveness on the American non-strategy against terror. Fighting terror on the same side as Pakistanis and Saudi Arabians is like fighting drugs with the dealers and addicts for allies.

    Extrapolating, the failed fight against Al Shabaab is a perfect microcosm of the United States’ failed War On Terror. We fought the problem with pinprick assassinations and made the enemy much stronger and more organized and more militarized.

    To paraphrase Bill:
    [Global jihad] isn’t merely a terrorist [movement] that operates on the cellular level and can be taken out with a series of pinpoint counterterrorism operations.

    Obummer and Brennan gave us a hundred year war by embedding with the Snakes.

  • laurent le bloa says:

    Clearly American Forces bring their help to the Somalian and UAMISOM , in particular to provide the necessary air support and to localize HV targets Somalian Army has not Air Forces, those of the UAMISOM are insufficient But we can note that the somalian Danab commando squads backed by American Forces acquired experience and skillful. UAMISOM and SNA are ability of leading operations individually in the same zone, and improved their capacity of collaboration between them as well as with the American Forces. It works and it should allow in the future to create a real efficient and autonomous Somalian Army. United Kingdom and Jordan also decided to get involved in Somalia and to send their special units to fight Al Shabaab.
    It will not allow to supress the Al Shabaab threat but militarily there are visible results. An offensive, or more exactly a cleaning operation in the Kismayo district is in progress. From the beginning of September Forces are advancing to towards Berhani village, 40 miles west of Kismayo. September the 7th they reached Abdalla-Birole and Janay Abdalla villages, located some 25 miles west of Kismayo. the 26th, when US Forces striked Caba, at the same time SNA and Uasom troops raided Berhani village.

  • Bill Baar says:

    Sad the debates dwelled on what Trump said to Hannity in 2003 instead of the wisdom of what the Administration’s doing today.

  • fern says:

    What ended the war in Nam was the television footage the people started to realize that being against that war was not being anti American but being patriotic. Iraq being against the invasion was being anti patriotic too till the people realized the government didnt know the difference between Shia and Suny, how many us military died there caught in a domestic fight which existed long before the US existed ? The involvement is hidden for political reasons as it may damage Obama peace loving campaign and not reelect the dems.
    So many things we don’t know like what was the involvement of the green B’s stationed in Bad Tölz in Tchekoslovaquia in the ’70s ?

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis