On February 24th, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) carried out airstrikes near Beledweyne, Somalia, wiping out at least 32 al-Shabaab fighters. The airstrikes targeted the Islamist fighters as they traveled between locations in a rural area of the Hiran region. The U.S. regularly utilizes airstrikes in Somalia as a means to support the fragile Somali government, which has been struggling against the al-Shabaab insurgency for years.
According to U.S. AFRICOM’s Twitter account, “To support the federal government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike approximately 23 miles east of Beledweyne, Hiran Region, Somalia, on February 24, 2019.”
This attack comes after al-Shabaab declared on February 15th that it had ordered a mortar attack on the Baledogle Airfield that killed U.S. and Somali forces. The radical militants issued a statement claiming they had killed three American soldiers and five Somali members of the Danab (Lightning) Advanced Infantry Battalion.
U.S. and Somali forces have planned a number of precision strikes to suppress the violence and support the Somali government’s foothold in the country. Although these targeted strikes have risen in frequency, it is uncertain what lasting impact, if any, the strikes are having on the militant group.
Al-Shabaab is known to have a strong following in the rural parts of Somalia, making it more difficult for the U.S. to strike a decisive blow to the group or diminish their recruiting efforts. Some also speculate that al-Shabaab is being supplied by an outside entity with money and weapons to keep the insurgency going.
The radical group has shown no signs of weakening despite the persistent claims that each of these airstrikes kills high numbers of insurgents. With community support and outsider involvement, al-Shabaab will continue their war regardless of the risks.