US ramps up its use of air power against extremist groups in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The United States has this year dramatically stepped up airstrikes in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, Somalia targeting extremist groups, Al-Shabaab and ISIS-linked militants, Garowe Online reports.
The surge in US air attacks, which are in support of the Somali army, is the result of a 2017 policy change by the Trump administration that gave the Department of Defence greater latitude to authorize strikes.
The shift has taken an unprecedented toll on Al-Shabaab’s rank and file, leaving many fighters and senior commanders dead in the past three years, according to the security analysts.
The American military has escalated a battle against the Al-Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda and Islamic State faction in Somalia, carrying out more than 15 drone strikes this year alone.
On Monday, Feb. 24, the US Africa Command reported an airstrike targeting Al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Jilib, the group’s biggest stronghold in the Middle Juba region. One extremist was killed in the covert raid.
The region which is entirely under Al-Shabaab control has seen frequent US military airstrikes recently as local partner forces – Somali national army [SNA] and AU troops are carrying out ground operations.
Despite losses, the group continues to stage attacks against military and government targets inside and outside of Somalia, raising doubts over whether the US strategy can ultimately help stabilize the troubled country.
Al-Shabaab has been seeking to topple the internationally-backed government in Somalia for the past decade, facing strong 22,000 African Union troops and the country’s armed forces in the battlefields.
AFRICOM said the airstrikes targeted personnel, fighting positions, infrastructure, and equipment, as part of wider counter-terrorism operations aimed at reducing Al-Shabaab’s ability to recruit, train and plot attacks in Somalia.
The US military also conducts air raids in the country's northeastern Puntland state, targeting Islamic State-affiliated fighters hiding in the mountain areas in the Bari region near the coast of Gulf of Aden.