The United States has conducted its first airstrike against the al-Shabaab terrorist group since Joe Biden became president.

Cynthia King, a spokesperson for the Defense Department said that the airstrike was conducted to support U.S. partner Somali National Army troops who were under attack from al-Shabaab, near Galkayo, Somalia.

No U.S. forces accompanied the Somalis during the operation, but were remotely advising and assisting them from an unidentified location outside of Somalia, King added.

King did not give a number of casualties suffered as a result of the airstrike nor provided additional information on the operation.

U.S. troops were withdrawn from Somalia in the waning days of the Trump administration. (DVIDS)

“The battle damage assessment is still pending, but the command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this strike. There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation,” she added. 

The Trump administration increasingly used drone strikes against al-Shabaab terrorists during its last days. Al-Shabaab has allied itself with al-Qaeda.

A Change in Policy

On January 18 a United States drone strike targeted and destroyed an al-Shabaab compound near Tiyeeglow, Somalia, according to the U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM). On the following day, the last of the Trump administration, the U.S. conducted drone strikes in Jamaame and Deb Scinnele against al-Shabaab leaders involved in training, planning, and carrying out terrorist attacks.

Overall, in the first 19 days of January, the U.S. conducted seven airstrikes or drone strikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia. 

However, the Biden administration immediately imposed strict controls on airstrikes in Somalia, requiring the White House to approve every mission in support of Somali forces.

Further, the administration announced that it would “[conduct] a review” over legal and policy frameworks concerning the usage of airstrikes. 

That micromanaging from thousands of miles away, coupled with the withdrawal of American troops who were assisting and advising the Somali National Army, has given a second wind to al-Shabaab. 

Ambulances and security forces gather on the street outside the Afrik hotel in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, after a terrorist attack by al-Shabaab. (AP)

“They will bring their battlewagons out. They will mount big guns on top of vehicles again. They will start to gather in large numbers again,” a senior Somali military official had said to the Voice of America (VOA) back in March. “It will be detrimental not only to the security of Somalia but to the region if al-Shabab were given the freedom to move around.”

Hopefully, this will begin to change.

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