On Tuesday, January 19, the U.S. conducted two airstrikes in Somalia against the al-Shabaab terrorist group a sign that it is keeping the pressure on Islamic extremists in the eastern African country. 

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) released a statement saying that the two airstrikes were conducted in the vicinities of Jamaame and Deb Scinnele, Somalia, and killed at least three al-Shabaab operatives. The command added that an initial assessment indicated that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this operation.

“These strikes targeted known al-Shabaab leaders involved in IED facilitation, fighter training, and attack planning,” said U.S. Air Force Major General Dagvin Anderson, Joint Task Force-Quartz commander. “Striking these leaders disrupts al-Shabaab’s ability to attack our partners and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians with improvised explosive devices. We are working closely with our Somali partners to support their operations against al-Shabaab, protect their people, and provide governance.”

Joint Task Force – Quartz (JTF-Q) continues operations that support AFRICOM and international efforts that seek to militarily stabilize Somalia while continuing to attack al-Shabaab.

Targeting al-Shabaab’s IED and bombmaking facilities is a priority for AFRICOM and the Somali government. A report released by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a U.K. research institute, stated that 93 percent of the civilian deaths in Somalia in 2019 were caused by explosive devices used in populated areas and IEDs caused 73 percent of civilian deaths.

After conducting 50 airstrikes against the al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist group last year, the U.S. has been actively pursuing any targets of opportunity in Somalia, even as it has redeployed nearly all of its troops from the country. 

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, has been adamant that despite the troops being redeployed, the U.S. commitment to Somalia is strong and will continue. 

“Al-Shabaab is a brutal enemy and a dangerous threat to America and Africa,” Townsend said in an AFRICOM statement. “We continue to work closely with our partners to degrade al-Shabaab’s ability to conduct operations and spread violence. America’s and Africa’s security depends on it.”

The 700-800 U.S. troops who were stationed in Somalia trained and supported Somali forces, including its Danab Special Forces unit, in counter-terrorist operations. They were moved to other eastern African countries such as neighboring Kenya and Djibouti, home to the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit had arrived off the coast of Somalia in December in support of operations for AFRICOM. The Makin Island Group was visited by General Townsend recently as part of his keeping the pressure on al-Shabaab.

“The arrival of the ARG/MEU and its significant combat capability demonstrates our resolve to support our partners and protect our forces through this transition,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, JTF-Q commander last month.

”This is a great example of how the United States can rapidly aggregate combat power to respond to emerging issues. We will look to leverage this inherent flexibility of the U.S. military in support of our future engagements in East Africa.”

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