A U.S. airstrike killed two members of an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Somalia in the first major action by American forces in the East African nation since President Joe Biden sent Special Operations troops back there in May.
U.S. Africa Command said it conducted the strike in coordination with the government of Somalia on Sunday after the al-Shabaab terrorist organization “attacked partner forces in a remote location near Libikus, Somalia,” according to a statement. “Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and U.S. interests.”
Biden ordered several hundred Special Forces troops back to the war-ravaged country on a “persistent” basis in May, with officials at the Pentagon and White House saying the Islamist al-Shabaab group presented an increasing threat. The move came after former President Donald Trump ordered troops out of the country near the end of his term.
The latest strike and broader U.S. assessment of al-Shabaab show how the U.S. sees terrorist groups as a potent threat in some parts of the world, despite the war in Ukraine and the increasing focus on “great power” competition with China and Russia.
Trump’s withdrawal, with took place against the recommendation of military leaders, wasn’t meant to signal a complete U.S. retreat from Somalia. Rather, forces were expected to be able to strike from a distance or do short-term engagements in the country when needed.
According to the Africa Command statement on Monday, “no civilians were injured or killed given the remote nature of where this engagement occurred.” The Pentagon has come under criticism for undercounting civilian deaths and not reporting them in a timely manner.
“The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties,” according to the statement. “These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.”