Somalia

U.S. military ramps up counterterrorism operations in Africa amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended U.S. military operations around the world, stalled some training at home and troop movements abroad, and halted a host of exercises with key allies from Asia to Europe. But one major American military operation has forged ahead with seemingly little impact from COVID-19: counterterrorism operations in Somalia, which have hit record levels over the past two months. Pentagon officials are racing to keep pressure on the al-Shabab terrorist network and are not allowing a global outbreak to offer even a small reprieve for U.S. enemies. So far this year, American forces have conducted at least 39 airstrikes against terrorist targets in Somalia. That figure has the U.S. on pace to set a record again this year in its war against terrorists in Africa. Last year, the U.S. carried out 63 strikes against al-Shabab and Islamic State targets in Somalia, according to numbers provided by U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent. The pace of America’s air assault in Somalia is rising for a number of reasons, analysts say. Broadly speaking, the U.S. in recent months has slowly and gradually reduced its direct military engagements in other corners of the continent, including in the Sahel region where French forces are now taking the leading role in counterterrorism operations. The shift in the U.S. Africa strategy has left Somalia as the focal point and the most appealing theater to target extremists. Many of the recent airstrikes have targeted al-Shabab leadership, underscoring the Trump administration’s effort to weaken the group by taking out its most senior members. But the COVID-19 pandemic also is likely playing a role. Regional analysts say the outbreak has greatly restricted major ground combat operations against al-Shabab strongholds, leaving Somali government forces and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops unable to mount their own offensives. “There’s just not a lot of political will to conduct sustained ground operations, especially now,” said Seth Jones, director of the Transnational Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “With COVID-19 and with concerns among AMISOM countries, you don’t even have the ground option as a short-term option. They’re just not going to deploy right now. The strikes — that’s really all you’ve got right now.” Indeed, coronavirus concerns have temporarily restricted U.S. ground efforts on the continent as well. Over the past two months, AFRICOM has canceled or postponed several major military exercises, underscoring Pentagon leaders’ efforts to enforce social distancing and keep large gatherings of troops to a minimum whenever possible.

And that’s what’s driving such decisions.  They can do these air strikes all day long..  For more on this story, click on the text above.

U.S. kills 62 al-Shabab militants with massive air assault in Somalia

The U.S. military over the weekend unleashed an intense air assault targeting al-Shabab militants in Somalia, killing at least 62 in a series of strikes aimed at denying the terrorist group a safe haven from which to launch attacks. The strikes in the Gandarshe region of Somalia — which mark the latest step in a growing U.S.-led military campaign targeting the terrorist group in Africa — were conducted in coordination with the Somali government, U.S. Africa Command said in a statement early Monday. At least 34 militants were killed on Saturday and another 28 on Sunday, Pentagon officials said. The military said no civilians were killed or injured in any of the six bombings. “All six airstrikes … targeted a known al-Shabab encampment,” U.S. Africa Command said in the statement. “U.S. Africa Command and our Somali partners conducted these airstrikes to prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks.” “We are committed to preventing al-Shabab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia,” the U.S. military said. “In particular, the group uses portions of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists.” The U.S. in recent months has ramped up its air campaign against the terrorist group, which is affiliated with al Qaeda. There are estimated to be as many as 9,000 al-Shabab fighters across Somalia. In addition to the continuing airstrikes, there have also been clashes between al-Shabab fighters and U.S. forces on the ground in Somalia. Last June, an American soldier was killed and another four wounded in a firefight with militants in southwestern Somalia.

Score one for the good guys!  🙂

Single U.S. airstrike wipes out 100 terrorists in Somalia

A single American military airstrike killed at least 100 fighters allied with the Somali-based terror group al-Shabab, the Pentagon revealed Tuesday, adding to an escalating body count as the Trump administration ramps up its counterterrorism campaign in the West African nation. U.S. forces working with the Somalian government on Tuesday confirmed an American sortie against a suspected al-Shabab camp ended with more than 100 fighters dead. The strike, which took place 125 miles west of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, was the largest casualty count racked up by U.S. warplanes operating in Somalia this month. And the Pentagon said the up-tempo pace will not fade quickly. “U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats” working with the African Union and Somali federal forces, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement shortly after Tuesday’s strike. Reached by the Reuters news service, al-Shabab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab denied the attack. “It is just … propaganda,” he said. But Somalia’s state news agency SONNA reported late on Tuesday that “about 100 militants” had indeed been killed when U.S. planes and Somali commandos attacked al-Shabab bases in the Bur Elay area of Bay region. The attack on the al-Shabab compound was the fifth by American fighters against targets associated with the terror group that has been fighting a deadly insurgent war against the weak Somalian government. Several militants were killed during a pair of initial airstrikes on Nov. 3, while several more died during a Nov. 14 U.S. strike on an al-Shabab target 60 miles northwest of Mogadishu, command officials confirmed at the time. There are currently 500 U.S. military personnel stationed in Somalia, supporting and leading counterterrorism operations in the country, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said earlier this month. He declined to comment on the exact number of al-Shabab fighters based in the country, or whether other terror groups like Islamic State were gaining a foothold in the Horn of Africa. In one of its first national security actions, the Trump administration in May ordered an escalation of American-led operations against al-Shabab’s network in Somalia. The order came weeks after Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken was killed in a Navy SEALs raid against a known al-Shabab stronghold in the country. His death was the first U.S. casualty in Somalia since 18 American soldiers were killed during the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993. Earlier this month the U.S. warned of a threat to American diplomatic personnel in Mogadishu and directed all nonessential staff to leave the capital. Al-Shabab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since it was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center and carries out terror attacks, Reuters reported.

Score one for the good guys!  Excellent!!    🙂