US Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched an airstrike against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, in southern Somalia yesterday. The US military has now targeted Shabaab forces using air power at least 14 times this year.
AFRICOM did not provide the precise location of the attack, but said it “occurred in the Bay Region of Somalia, about 100 miles west of the capital, Mogadishu.” Additionally, AFRICOM said that “several militants” were killed, but did not disclose the exact number.
In its press release, AFRICOM noted that Shabaab “has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world.” Additionally, Shabaab “has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the US and our partners in the region.”
The US State Department, in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, said that Shabaab has prospered over the past year “due largely to lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations during 2016.” Additionally, State noted that Somali security forces “remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from Shabaab independently,” and while not explicitly stated, hinted that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is failing.
At the end of March, the Trump administration loosened the restrictions on the US military to use force against Shabaab after the Department of Defense noted that Shabaab has become more lethal and dangerous. Shabaab has killed hundreds of African Union and Somali forces while overrunning bases in southern Somalia, and has maintained its safe havens while expanding areas under its control during 2016.
Since the beginning of June, the US military has announced 14 strikes against Shabaab. The targets have varied. A June 11 operation hit a Shabaab command center and logistics node. A July 4 attack targeted Shabaab fighters as they massed for an assault in the south. A July 29 airstrike killed Ali Muhammad Hussein, a senior Shabaab leader, in a strike on the Mogadishu Attack Network.
However, the attacks have not stopped Shabaab from launching deadly suicide operations and assaults against high value targets in the capital of Mogadishu.
The US military has also begun to target the Islamic State’s infrastructure inside Somalia. On Nov. 3, US warplanes launched two strikes against an Islamic State base in the semi autonomous region of Puntland.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.