Throughout January, the US bombed Somalia at a rapid pace despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal of about 700 troops from the country.
According to a spokesman for US Africa Command (AFRICOM), as of January 24th, the US carried out six airstrikes in Somalia against the militant group al-Shabab since the new year. The latest bombings reported by AFRICOM took place on January 19th, Trump’s last full day in office.
Most of the soldiers pulled out of Somalia by the Trump administration were relocated to neighboring Djibouti and Kenya, where the US drones are based that carry out airstrikes in the region.
President Trump significantly escalated the war in Somalia by loosening the rules of engagement, ramping up airstrikes, and sending regular troops to the country for the first time in decades. In 2020 alone, the Trump administration bombed Somalia more than George W. Bush and Barack Obama combined.
If the pace of six AFRICOM airstrikes a month continues for 2021, it could surpass previous years. AFRICOM conducted 52 airstrikes in Somalia in 2020, 63 in 2019, 47 in 2018, and 35 in 2017.
AFRICOM likes to hype the threat of al-Shabab due to its al-Qaeda affiliation. “While al-Shabab is unable to attack the US homeland today, their ambition to do so in the future remains,” AFRICOM spokesman Col. Chris Karns said in recent comments.
In reality, al-Shabab is a local group that was born out of fighting a US-backed occupation and only pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda after years of fighting the US and its proxies.
In 2006, the US supported an Ethiopian invasion to oust the Islamic Courts Union, a Muslim coalition that controlled Mogadishu at the time. The first recorded attack that al-Shabab claimed responsibility for was in 2007 when the group targeted Ethiopian soldiers occupying Mogadishu. It wasn’t until 2012 that al-Shabab pledged its loyalty to al-Qaeda.