US forces conducted an airstrike yesterday in Jamaame, a coastal town in southern Somalia. The strike killed four terrorists associated with Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa.
A US Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release said that US forces will continue to partner with the Somali military and the African Union mission in the country in “combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.” The US mission in the country aims “to protect US citizens and to disable terrorist threats.”
US forces have conducted five strikes against Shabaab in 2018, according to Samantha Reho, an AFRICOM Media Relations Officer. AFRICOM has disclosed information on four, including a strike earlier this week in the southern city of Jilib.
In 2017, US forces conducted a record 35 strikes in Somalia, outnumbering the combined strikes of the entire previous air campaign, which began in 2007. The sharp increase in strikes in Somalia can be partly explained by AFRICOM’s expanded remit in Somalia. In late March, the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the US military to use force against Shabaab, following Department of State and Defense assessments of the enhanced Shabaab threat. Last year also included the first air assaults against the Islamic State in Somalia, which was targeted in four strikes.
In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, the State Department noted that Shabaab has retained its safe haven in the Jubba River Valley, retaken ground in the south, forced poorly resourced African Union forces to cede territory after spectacular complex assaults, and continues to plot against the US and the West. [See Shabaab gains in Somalia due to ‘lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations’.]
Shabaab has remained a persistent threat to the Somali government and neighboring countries despite efforts by the African Union and the US to defeat it over the past decade. Over the past several years, the group has launched attacks that have killed hundreds of African Union forces from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Ethiopia. These Shabaab assaults have forced African Union troops to withdraw from some cities and towns in southern Somalia.