U.S. airstrikes kill nearly 40 terrorists in Somalia
Nearly 30 militants affiliated with the East African terror group al-Shabaab were killed in a pair of American airstrikes near Somalia, officials from U.S. Africa Command acknowledged Tuesday.
The strikes took place in the Somali city of Debatscile on Monday, command officials disclosed in a statement. The initial strike ended with 27 al-Shabaab fighters dead in what Africa Command characterized as “a planned and deliberate action.” The second strike, which was likely a “dynamic airstrike” or one not planned ahead of time, took out 10 additional terrorists, according to the statement.
The strikes were executed in support of Somali-led counterterrorism operations and “reduce al-Shabaab’s ability to plot future attacks, disrupt its leadership networks, and degrade its freedom of maneuver within the region,” command officials said.
The terror group’s hubs targeted by U.S. warplanes in Somalia were used by the organization “to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists,” Tuesday’s statement says.
U.S. forces “are committed to preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia,” it added.
The strikes come days after the Pentagon announced plans to reduce U.S. counterterrorism operations in Africa by 10 percent. In a department-wide missive distributed last Thursday, Defense Department officials said the reduction is driven by an effort “to optimize our efforts and realign” military resources under the National Defense Strategy or NDS.
“We will preserve a majority of our U.S. security cooperation, partnerships and programs . . . However, we will realign our counter-terrorism resources and forces operating in Africa over the next several years in order to maintain a competitive posture worldwide,” department officials said.
Under the NDS, approved by Defense Secretary James Mattis in January, the Pentagon shifted away from the George W. Bush and Obama-era strategies dominated by battling extremist groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State, and set their sights on the growing military threat posed by Russia, China and other nation-states.
The renewed focus on nation-state adversaries will likely drive Pentagon investment toward more conventional weapon systems and programs like warships, fighter jets, tanks and heavy artillery, as opposed to unmanned drones and other systems closely associated with the war on terrorism.