US military reduces airstrikes in Somalia under Biden administration
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The United States military has significantly reduced airstrikes in Somalia, something which analysts relate to the withdrawal of the troops from the Horn of Africa nation in 2021, following an order from the Pentagon.
Former US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US Africa Command troops before redeploying them to Djibouti and Kenya in 2021. The US argued that the troops were "strategically repositioned".
Data obtained from the US Africa Command indicate that in 2021, the US carried out only 10 airstrikes in Somalia compared to 72 in 2020. The airstrikes mainly target Al-Shabaab militants besides helping allied forces with air surveillance.
Dozens of senior Al-Shabaab terrorists have been killed in various airstrikes including Ahmed Godane, the former Al-Shabaab leader who was killed by a drone strike in 2015. The US has been targeting dangerous terrorists after doing due diligence.
But throughout 2020, there were complaints of the US military targeting innocent civilians, leading to the establishment of the Civilian Casualty Report which is now being issued quarterly. A few cases which have been confirmed, have since been lined up for compensation.
After Joe Biden took over, there have been deliberate efforts to reinstate the US army in Somalia. General Stephen Townsend and a host of the top military from the United States Army recently visited Somalia where discussions were held.
To mitigate frequent Al-Shabaab attacks, the US deployed Special Forces to Wajir in Kenya where they are closely working with the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF]. The US presence in Kenya has increased following the unprecedented attack in Manda Bay, 2020.
According to data obtained by VOA, U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia totaled 852 last year, which was 42% fewer than the 1,459 U.S. airstrikes carried out in the same war zones in 2020, VoA reports.
More than a third of the strikes in the Middle East in 2020 and 2021 were carried out by a special counterterror joint task force, whose 2021 airstrike numbers are being disclosed for the first time in this report.
Two weeks after Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden announced his administration would take steps to "course-correct" U.S. foreign policy to "better unite our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership." He tasked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to lead a review of U.S. forces around the world, so that America's military footprint was, in his words, "appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities."
Somalia is struggling to contain violent extremism and the US Africa Command has been a close partner. The United States has often insisted that the stability of the East Africa region depends on the elimination of the Al-Shabaab militants.