The strike takes place as US and African Union backed Somali forces attempt to wrest territory held by Shabaab. US Africa Command recently estimated that Shabaab controls one quarter of Somalia’s territory.
If the current pace of strikes continues, the US will strike Shabaab 130 times in 2019. Is this a prelude to disengagement?
The US military’s air campaign against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, continues to intensify. AFRICOM launched five more airstrikes against Shabaab over the weekend.
The two latest strikes took place in a town where Shabaab is dominant. The US air campaign against Shabaab continues to intensify and is on pace to quickly outstrip last year’s strike total.
Since the New Year, US Africa Command has hit Shabaab 14 times. AFRICOM acknowledges that the air campaign is not sufficient to defeat Shabaab, but can only support the Somali government’s efforts.
The strikes were launched to “prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks,” AFRICOM noted.
The last three strikes against Shabaab have taken place in an area where foreign al Qaeda fighters have historically sheltered. AFRICOM has targeted Shabaab 40 times throughout Somalia in 2018.
The US military hit al Qaeda’s branches in Somalia and Libya twice over the past several days, killing 20 fighters in strikes that appear to have targeted the groups’ military capacity.