On April 10th, Al-Shabaab’s Shahada News Agency warned that its recent suicide bombings are a “doubled response” retaliation for increased U.S. military capabilities in Somalia, following President Trump’s March 29th endorsement of an order proclaiming ‘areas of active hostilities’ – or war zones – throughout the country. The U.S. military can now proactively launch targeted airstrikes, and better assist with Somali government operations against the terrorist group in Somalia, whereas U.S. airstrikes were only previously allowed in circumstances of self-defense. Last weekend, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group perpetrated two different suicide attacks, one killing thirteen people at the induction of Somalia’s new military chief – the purported target – and another at a Mogadishu military academy that killed five soldiers. Al-Shabaab has shown a recent resurgence and has further endeavored to destabilize the fragile country ever since new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed took office in February. Last week, Mohamed similarly pledged ramped up military offensives against the group.
Elevated U.S. engagement in Somalia is a double-edged sword. On one hand, experts like Roland Marchal, senior fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research, cautioned of the “collateral damage” fallout of an intensifying military campaign in such a weak country. Increased civilian casualties could further alienate the population and “fuel” Al-Shabaab’s recruitment among disenfranchised citizens, Marchal and other experts argued. On the other hand, spokespeople for the Pentagon insisted the targeted airstrikes will be conducted with “great care” to minimize casualties, and that elevated pressure on Al-Shabaab will help mitigate risk for U.S. regional partner forces and aid in robbing the group of its “safe havens from which it could attack U.S. citizens or U.S. interests in the region.” Security consulting firm, The Soufan Group, noted that U.S. strategy in Somalia seems to be an extension of similar counterterrorism approaches in Syria, Iraq and Libya, where heightened U.S.-backed efforts have recaptured swaths of territory from ISIS, although there are no signs that the U.S. will parallel its military escalation with humanitarian initiatives designed to address famine in the region, among others issues.
From The Washington Post:
“The Somalia-based al-Shabab claims that its escalation of deadly attacks is in “doubled response” to President Donald Trump’s approval of expanded U.S. military efforts against it, an organization that monitors extremist groups says.
Al-Shabab’s statements come after Somalia’s new military chief survived a suicide car bomb attack Sunday following his swearing-in with a mandate to launch a new offensive against the Islamic extremists. Thirteen people were killed. A day later, a suicide bombing at a military academy in the capital, Mogadishu, killed at least five soldiers.”