US escalates airstrikes in Somalia with 30% increase in 2022

Washington (Caasimada Online) – The US Africa Command increased its airstrikes in Somalia in 2022 by 30% compared to previous years as part of its counterterrorism operations against al-Shabab and in support of the Somali government, according to the Long War Journal tracker.

In 2022, the Pentagon carried out 15 airstrikes targeting Al-Shabab – the al-Qaida-affiliated militant group. These strikes resulted in the deaths of 107 al-Shabab fighters, according to data from AFRICOM. 

In 2020 and 2019, the command carried out 45 and 59 airstrikes in Somalia, the highest number since U.S. operations began.  

The U.S. government has been targeting al-Shabab with airstrikes in Somalia under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed after the 9/11 terror attacks. It has also been used to conduct operations in other countries as part of the Global War on Terror.

The group is believed to have between 5,000 to 10,000 fighters in Somalia, according to a joint Inspector General report from the State Department and Department of Defense. 

The Biden administration is also considering a Somalia request to loosen restrictions on U.S. military drone strikes against al-Shabab militants. 

The Somali government is seeking to allow U.S. military operators to attack groups of al-Shabab militants who pose a potential threat to Somali forces, even if they are not actively firing upon them. This would escalate American involvement in the ongoing counterterrorism effort in Somalia.

The request comes as Somalia’s new administration, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has launched an offensive against al-Shabab with the support of local clan militias and international allies. 

President Biden has also recently redeployed 450 U.S. troops to Somalia, reversing the decision of former President Donald Trump to withdraw all troops in January 2021.

Some U.S. officials are hopeful that Somalia may be turning a corner. However, others are more skeptical, given the country’s history of dysfunction, the limited capacity of its central government, the complex clan dynamics, and the ongoing drought-driven famine. 

The success of the current offensive against al-Shabab and the stability of the country will likely depend on the ability of the Somali government to deliver services and establish strong partnerships with clan leaders.

In addition to the airstrikes, the U.S. has also been providing support to the Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in their efforts to combat al-Shabab. This has included training, advising, intelligence, and logistical support. 

On Sunday, The United States announced a $9 million donation of weapons, support and construction vehicles, explosive ordnance, disposal kits, medical supplies, and maintenance equipment to the Somali army.

The package is intended for the elite Danab battalions, including those who operate in the HirShabelle and Galmudug states. It will be used to support the campaign by the Somali National Army to liberate Somalia’s communities from the terrorist group al-Shabab, according to a statement by U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu.