The U.S. military executed three airstrikes on July 8 and 9 in Somalia, killing 10 al-Shabab fighters, a terrorist group that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida. The strikes came at a time when the Somali government’s offensive against the group has been losing momentum, and African Union troops are planning to withdraw next year.
- The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) carried out the airstrikes in support of Somali National Army forces engaged in combat with al-Shabab fighters in Afmadow, 293 miles south of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
- Al-Shabab has emerged as al-Qaida’s largest, wealthiest, and deadliest offshoot, taking advantage of instability in Somalia. The group has also attacked U.S. troops and civilians in East Africa, and aspires to target the West.
- U.S troops have been involved in the fight against al-Shabaab since 2007. Although most American service members left Somalia at the end of 2020, President Joe Biden approved a request to send several hundred troops back to Somalia in May 2022.
- The Somali government launched an offensive against al-Shabab last September, which initially cleared the group out of central parts of the country, but al-Shabab has since managed to regroup and retaliate.
- The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is scheduled to end by late 2024, with a significant number of troops expected to withdraw in September. The anticipated withdrawal, coupled with political infighting among Somali government officials, has allowed al-Shabab more targets of opportunity.