Despite President Donald Trump announcing that the United States will withdraw most of its troops from Somalia, the U.S. recently conducted airstrikes against al-Shabaab in the country. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) didn’t specify if the airstrikes were conducted by drones or by aircraft.
The U.S. has been using drones for the majority of airstrikes in Somalia.
“This strike should demonstrate to any enemy that we stand by our partners and will vigorously defend both ourselves and our partners during this repositioning and future operations,” said Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, Joint Task Force – Quartz commander. “We will continue to maintain strong force protection and strike those who seek to harm us or our partners.”
These latest airstrikes targeted, what AFRICOM officials described as, al-Shabaab explosives experts near the town of Jilib, about 207 miles southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Juba valley.
Juba valley remains a terrorist stronghold despite U.S. airstrikes and Somali special operations troops’ forays into the area.
“We will continue to apply pressure to the al-Shabaab network. They continue to undermine Somali security, and need to be contained and degraded,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of U.S. Africa Command in a released statement.
“Al-Shabaab remains a dangerous franchise of al-Qaeda,” Townsend added. “We continue to monitor the threat and support our partners through training and military and diplomatic engagement. This mission illustrates our continuing commitment to eradicating this threat and supporting our Somali partners in the region. We’re repositioning, but we will maintain the ability to strike this enemy.”
Townsend has stated that although the majority of U.S. troops are leaving Somalia, they won’t be leaving the region, as they will be redeployed to Kenya or Djibouti. “We will maintain the ability to strike the enemy,” he said.
Most of the U.S. troops in Somalia are special operations troops.
The U.S. has conducted 50 airstrikes against al-Shabaab in 2020 and a few others at an al-Qaeda linked group. Last year, the U.S. conducted 63 airstrikes against al-Shabaab, which is considered some of the most dangerous terrorist groups.
The group has conducted 45 car bomb attacks in the capital of Mogadishu that have killed over 400 people.
Following the president’s announcement regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Department of Defense released a statement saying that while the majority of troops would be redeployed, a small number will stay and continue AFRICOM’s advise and assist mission in Somalia.
“While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy,” the DoD statement read. “We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition.”
On Thursday, elsewhere in the region, the U.S. sent a message to Iran with a long-range mission consisting of flying a pair of B-52 bombers. The pair flew nonstop from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to the Middle East and back while refueling multiple times in the air. The B-52s are part of the 2nd Bomb Wing.
“The ability to fly strategic bombers halfway across the world in a nonstop mission, and to rapidly integrate them with multiple regional partners demonstrates our close working relationships and our shared commitment to regional security and stability,” the head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Frank McKenzie, said in a statement.
McKenzie added that, “Potential adversaries should understand that no nation on earth is more ready and capable of rapidly deploying additional combat power in the face of any aggression.” The message to Iran, which is rumored to be planning some kind of attack in the Middle East, was clear.