US slows down al-Shabaab crackdown in Somalia amid upsurge in terrorist attacks
MOGADISHU, Somalia – For seven months, the United States slowed down operations against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, in a strategy widely criticized by local actors, who believe that US Africa Command’s efforts were still needed to eradicate them. activists.
On January 19, an American plane opened fire on a vehicle traveling near Jamaame, Somalia, killing a commander of the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, the local al-Qaeda affiliate, which was a thorn in the flesh. for the fragile nation, still fighting for stability, three decades later.
This mission and another on the same day brought to 203 the number of airstrikes carried out by former President Donald Trump in Somalia during his tenure, according to military records. On January 20, Joe Biden was sworn in as president. Since then, there has not been a single US airstrike against al-Shabaab.
The United States’ war on al-Shabaab, waged largely behind a veil of secrecy since 2007, remains in limbo as Mr. Biden assesses his national security priorities and grapples with the last-minute decisions of his predecessor.
“We are attached to Somalia,” said a senior US official quoted by the Wall Street Journal, a leading US publication. “What exactly that will look like is still under discussion. “
Nearly 700 American soldiers, responsible among other things for training and equipping special forces in addition to helping with aerial surveillance, have left Somalia without a formal plan. Some of them have been repositioned in Kenya and Djibouti.
But the burden now appears to be shifting to the Somali National Army [SNA] and African Union mission forces [AMISOM], who are about to leave Somalia as soon as the Somali transition plan is fully implemented [STP]. They are expected to transfer security responsibilities to SNA by the end of 2021.
US Africa Command Chief General Stephen Townsend recently told the US Senate that “Al-Shabaab is still a dangerous entity in Somalia, but we are considering strategies on how we will bounce back and help to defeat the group “.
However, he did not outline the exact plans despite reports from the Defense Ministry that Biden had already written them a proposal, suggesting the deployment of special forces in Somalia, to help combat the militants.
However, as a short-term strategy, the United States has already sent special forces to the northeastern region of Kenya, where they are assisting the Kenya Defense Forces. [KDF] to find and kill the militants. The troops are currently stationed in Wajir, a county in northeastern Kenya where Al-Shabaab frequently carries out attacks.
In addition to Somalia, Al-Shabaab has traveled frequently to Kenya where it carries out persistent attacks, particularly in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu. In January 2020, the US military was attacked at the Manda Bay base by militants.
Al-Shabaab still controls large swathes of rural areas in central and southern Somalia, but they have been considerably weakened in their strong bases such as Middle and Lower Jubba. There are nearly 7,000 active al-Shabaab fighters in the country.