Recent diplomatic and military moves by the US Administration in relation to Somalia indicate that Washington is planning to strike the Islamist group al-Shabab in the country. While under the Obama administration action was taken under the “self-defense”protocol, now U.S. military commanders on the ground in the Horn of Africa can launch their own operations even as sudden strikes.
Some of the most significant moves signaling US direction include the recent visit between Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa (AFRICOM), and Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed held on Monday,May 1. According to Somali government sources the meeting was “ahead of expected escalation of U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabab”. A week before that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis visited government senior official and U.S. service members in Djibouti, where the airstrikes in a future attack will originate. In addition to that aid groups in Somalia were asked to provide detailed information about the exact location of hospitals, refugee camps and other similar facilities, so that the region is not part of the airstrikes.
President Trump was very clear in his statement that the US military will go after “radical Islamic terrorism” and last month he declared portions of Somalia an “area of active hostilities”.
Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David J. Furness, who was also part of the Monday meeting with President Mohamed and was recently appointed commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, said his top priority is to “neutralize” al-Shabab.
“There is no question that al-Shabab has brought great turmoil and has committed extreme atrocities in East Africa, and particularly in Somalia,” Furness said in a statement. “But we are committed to working with partner nations to help Somalia stand strong against this violent extremist organization and assist with the international and intergovernmental efforts to bring back security and stability to this very important region.”
According to the US administration al-Shabab is a significant threat because of their sophisticated operatives and operational systems and the support it shows for ISIS. Even though the terrorist group has not taken any action outside Somalia, it is the reason why laptops were banned on some flights from the Middle East and Africa to USA. In February 2016 the group managed to recruit one of the security managers at Mogadishu’s airport who gave a laptop to a passenger after he was cleared by security. On board the plane, after take-off, the laptop was blown and tore a hole in the fuselage killing the bearer. A few days later the security manager also was killed by a car bomb.