US salutes ANS forces in Al-Shabaab conflict in Somalia

US salutes ANS forces in Al-Shabaab war in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia – United States applauded efforts of Somali National Army [SNA] in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants, adding that the force has stepped up its operations in the country, further reducing the operations of the Al-Qaida-linked group.

Lloyd Austin, who is the defense secretary, said the airstrikes targeting Al-Shabaab in recent days were undertaken because Somali forces are stepping up their offensive against the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.

“More recently what has happened is that our partner forces have increased their op[erational] tempo, and they pushed al-Shabab back in a more meaningful way, ”Austin told reporters traveling with him to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

“This results in fairly intense engagements, and we have carried out these strikes to support our partner forces,” he added.

The U.S. Africa Command targeted al-Shabab with two airstrikes on July 20 and 23, after an almost six-month hiatus that began when President Joe Biden took office.

Over the past three months, the Somali army has carried out operations in Galmadug, central Somalia, and parts of Lower Shabelle, where militants have almost absolute power. Al-Shabaab wants to overthrow the fragile Somali administration backed by the UN.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told VOA and other reporters traveling on a US military plane on Friday that US troops were not on the ground with Somali forces during the strikes but were leading remote advice and assistance.

The US military carried out 63 airstrikes against al-Shabab in 2019 and 53 airstrikes last year. Seven more airstrikes were launched in the first two and a half weeks of 2021 before former US President Donald Trump stepped down.

U.S. officials explained the slowdown by citing a Biden administration review of the military’s airstrike policy. Senior Somali officials concerned about the lack of strikes had warned that it would allow al-Shabab “to come out of its hiding place.”

At the end of last month, the Commander of Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, told a virtual defense forum that the spread of terrorism across Africa “has continued relatively unabated” , designating al-Shabab as a major concern.

“We see threats in Somalia for regional stability,” he said. “We even see threats against the homeland of the United States.”



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