U.S. Airstrikes Against Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State in Somalia

From November 11th to November 12th the United States carried out three air strikes Somalia against al-Shabaab and Islamic State within 24 hours. In the airstrikes which were carried out in coordination with the Somali government, killing 81 suspected terrorists.

The first strike was carried out near Gaduud which is about 250 miles south west from Mogadishu on Saturday. The second strike occurred at 3am the next day in the lower Shabelle region about 40 miles from Mogadishu and the third strike occurred in the northern Puntland area at about 9 am, targeting the Islamic State.

The Islamic State emerged in Somalia over the past two years and many of the fighters have come from the al-Shabaab group. This is the second air strike specifically targeting the IS in Somalia this year, the first airstrike was carried out earlier in November against IS targeting a growing cell in northern Puntland.

There are roughly 200 IS members in Puntland, which coordinates with IS forces in Yemen. According to UN Documents at least one shipment of small arms was delivered to the IS fighters from Yemen.

The three airstrikes were prompted after several attacks in the past two months. The first was an al-Shabaab raid on the Somali Bala Gaduud military base in the southern port town of Kismayo that took place on September 2nd and left 20 Somali personnel dead. During this attack al-Shabaab seized significant numbers of weapons and equipment including mortars, machine guns, and AK-47s assault rifles.  The second was when al-Shabaab attacked a convoy of U.S. and Somali troops, however, it resulted in no personnel being killed or wounded.

The United States currently has about 500 troops in Somalia including special operations forces working as advisers to the Somali forces.

The United States has now carried out 26 targeted attacks in Somalia in 2017.

The Trump administration approved expanding military operations  against the terror group in Somalia in March of 2017. The U.S. military is permitted to aggressively target al-Shabaab in cooperation with the Somali government. Restrictions were removed on U.S. targeting and U.S. troops are permitted to assist Somali forces in offensive raids.

Previously under the Obama administration the military was not permitted to conduct airstrikes against the terror group unless the African Union or Somali government troops were specifically coming under attack.

With the increase of airstrikes on the Islamic State and al-Shabaab the U.S. counterterrorism initiative has stepped up to increase military aid to the Somalia government hopefully to stop the growth of the terror groups.