The US is increasing military assistance to the Mogadishu-based government in Somalia, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
US airstrikes in Somalia have increased since President Biden ordered the redeployment of troops in May 2022 and the Somali government launched an offensive against al-Shabaab, declaring “total war” on the group.
According to AP, the US said in a statement that 61 tons of weapons and ammunition arrived in Mogadishu as part of the increased US military aid. On Tuesday, the US hosted a meeting on Somalia in Washington DC that was attended by representatives from Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the UK.
The countries said in a joint statement that they support the Somali government’s fight against al-Shabaab and vowed to “strengthen coordination of international security assistance.” They said they would work on getting the UN to fully lift its arms embargo on Somalia to facilitate weapons transfers to the government.
Somalia’s neighbors recently said they would join the fight, a sign the war could significantly escalate as the country is facing a severe drought. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti have committed to a “search and destroy” mission against al-Shabaab.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has launched six airstrikes in Somalia so far in 2023, a sign US operations in the country are expanding, as they reported 15 in all of 2022. The recent strikes have been done in the name of “collective self-defense” of Somali government forces who were engaged with al-Shabaab.
The US military portrays al-Shabaab as a major threat due to its size and affiliation with al-Qaeda, but it’s widely believed the group is not a global threat. Al-Shabaab was born out of a US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia that was launched in 2006, and the group didn’t declare loyalty to al-Qaeda until 2012, after years of fighting the US and its proxies.