Somalia: US optimistic about anti-Al Shabab offensive

ROME, Italy (Caasimada Online) – General Michael Langley, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, expressed optimism about the fight of Somalia government against Al-Shabab militants.

Speaking after the international African Chiefs of Defence Conference in Rome, Gen Langley praised Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s approach to addressing the militant presence in Somalia and the persistent famine affecting the population.

Al-Shabab militants have been attempting to overthrow Somalia’s central government for nearly 15 years, killing thousands of people during that time.

President Mohamud’s approach to addressing terrorism 

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed Mohamud has emphasized the need for economic reform, social and political reconciliation, and religious tolerance in the fight against international terrorism.

Gen Langley said he was “cautiously optimistic” about Somalia’s progress in its campaign against Al-Shabab.

He added that he was impressed by Mr. Mohamud’s commitment to continuing to provide services to the public in the clans that are suffering, whether it’s famine or relief from the activities of Al Shabab.

Famine and militancy in Somalia

The U.N. has reported that almost half of Somalia’s 17 million population faces acute food insecurity, with 300,000 expected to experience famine in the coming months.

More than 900,000 people live in areas controlled by the Al Qaeda-affiliated group, complicating aid access.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing humanitarian aid, stabilization efforts, economic development, and military assistance to the Somali government in its continuing campaign against the group.

Last week, an AfricaCom strike near Galmudug, Somalia, killed seven Al Shabab fighters.

The U.S. government stated that the strike was conducted “at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements” against the militant group. The operation left no civilian casualties.

U.S. assistance to Somalia

Last year, the U.S. provided more than $2.5 billion in life-saving assistance to the Horn of Africa, with $1.3 billion going directly to Somalia.

On Tuesday, The United States delivered the second shipment of weapons to Somalia this year.

The shipment, weighing 61 tons, consisted of AK-47s, heavy machine guns, and ammunition and arrived via two U.S. Airforce C-17 aircraft at Mogadishu airport.

In January, the U.S. donated $9 million worth of heavy weapons, equipment, medical supplies, and maintenance equipment for vehicles and weapons to Somalia.

The U.S. has an estimated 450 military personnel in Somalia after President Joe Biden reversed his predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces.

Concerns about Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa

Gen Langley expressed concern about the “growing influence” of Russia’s Wagner group across Africa during the conference.

He highlighted their destabilizing effects in every country they operate in, including Libya, the Central African Republic, and Mali.

Wagner has sent thousands of operatives to African and Middle Eastern countries, including Mali, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Syria.

Gen Langley emphasized U.N. reports of Wagner’s “brutal tactics,” human rights abuses, and allegations of unlawful or arbitrary killing of civilians.

He added that the same tactics were observed in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Last month, Washington pressured its Middle Eastern allies to expel the Wagner Group, a military contractor owned by an oligarch with close ties to Russia’s president, from Libya and Sudan.