Mogadishu, Somalia – Last week the newly appointed Somali President Mohamed Adbullahi Farmajo declared his East African country a ‘war zone.’ Currently the Somali Army along with troop support from Kenyan and Burundian forces assigned to the U.N.-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as U.S. support to include U.S. Special Operations from AFRICOM, are standing ready on orders to conduct an all out offensive on the al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group known as al-Shabaab to rid Somalia of this terror group for good.
President Farmajo set the countdown for the destruction of al-Shabaab to 60 days, in which he also offered Shabaab fighters the chance to lay down their weapons and turn themselves into the Somali government in what they are calling an “amnesty period.” Al-Shabaab answered the extension of this olive branch with an assassination attempt on the newly appointed Somali National Army general along with attacking a Somali National Army outpost in southern Somalia.
Both failed miserably.
Directly after his declaration of war on al-Shabaab the president ‘reshuffled’ his war cabinet by replacing the director of CIA-mentored Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) along with his Somali National Army (SNA) commanding general. The new army chief, General Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, was the first al-Shabaab target and they intended on killing him while leaving his swearing-in ceremony at the heavily guarded Somali Ministry of Defense building. The General’s convoy was targeted with an vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), yet the al-Shabaab operatives who were to assassinate the newly appointed general missed the SNA convoy completely and detonated their heavy explosive-laden vehicle near a bus full of civilians, ripping it in half and killing at least 15 and maiming twice that in the aftermath. The SNA general and his convoy were left unscathed, only the people of Mogadishu paid the price for the attack.
Al-Shabaab triumphantly claimed the attack as theirs, this was the terror group’s response to the amnesty their fighters were offered by the Somali government. War it is.
Then not fours days later, al-Shabaab operating out of its ad-hoc strongholds in the lower Shabelle region of Somalia sent a larger assault force to attack a Somali National Army base outside the village of Kuday, Somalia. However, right next to the SNA base was also an AMISOM compound full of Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), who sprung into action and began dropping mortars onto the Shabaab terrorists while raking their lines with effective interlocking machine-gun fire. Cutting down several of the Shabaab fighters and scoring a confirmed kill of a high value senior al-Shabaab leader, Bashe Nure Hassan in the fierce gun battle that stopped the al-Shabaab attack cold.
Al-Shabaab’s answer to the Somali government’s declaration of war is all but easing the concerns of the Trump administration’s latest proposal of relaxing U.S. AFRICOM advisors strike authority requirements in regards to air and drone strikes; which Pentagon spokesperson, Navy Captain, Jeff Davis outlined some of the more finer points in a statement to the press, saying, “The president has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces operations.” Captain Davis went on the say that, “[T]he additional support provided by this authority will help deny Al-Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack US citizens or US interests in the region.”
This has led some defense analysts to hypothesize that due to Trump’s willingness to increase U.S. areas of active hostilities globally, that both Somalia and Yemen are being considered ‘test-beds’ for shaping Trump administration’s own drone policy that, if successful, could be used as the administrations leitmotif globally.
Director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center on U.S. Drone Policy, Rachel Stohl outlined this theory in a report:
“Although the Obama Administration did not put the U.S. drone program on as firm a footing as had been desired, the Trump Administration may be positioning itself to dismantle Obama’s limited policy infrastructure. Reports indicate that the Trump Administration has reestablished CIA authority to conduct lethal strikes, perhaps reflecting an inclination toward a more hands-on CIA role in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and other areas where counterterrorism operations are priorities.
In addition, recent actions by the Trump Administration also demonstrate a greater willingness to increase the number of places categorized as “areas of active hostilities,” a list which thus far includes Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. On March 12, Trump granted a Pentagon request to declare parts of three provinces in Yemen as areas of active hostilities, where looser battlefield rules apply. The President also signed a similar directive for Somalia on March 29. These new designations could allow for intensified operations with greater U.S. engagement and higher risk to those on the ground. It is possible that both Yemen and Somalia are test-cases to determine whether the Obama Administration’s rules should be permanently lifted.”
Feature image courtesy of: The Star, Kenya