The U.S. military on Sunday confirmed its third airstrike against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia in less than two weeks, stepping up the tempo of strikes against the al-Qaeda-linked extremists even as American involvement in Afghanistan comes to a close.
U.S. officials said Sunday’s strike was conducted in support of Somali government forces fighting al-Shabaab in the country’s central Galmudug state. The U.S. launched airstrikes in the same region on July 20 and 23, marking the first strikes in Somalia during the Biden administration.
“This is another major blow to al-Shabaab’s means to wage war against the Somali people. The airstrikes destroyed a large al-Shabaab firing position engaging Danab and SNA forces as they approached,” the Somali Ministry of Information stated.
“These operations limit al-Shabaab’s ability to kill and terrorize the Somali people,” the ministry continued. “More and more al-Shabaab fighters are leaving the terrorist organization that is losing to the Danab and SNA, and are defecting to the Somal Security Forces, where they have been welcomed and treated with dignity.”
The SNA is the Somali National Army, while the Danab Brigade is an elite force of Somali commandos trained by the United States.
Somali media favorable to al-Shabaab claimed the U.S. strike had no significant impact and fighters from the group remain active in the area that was attacked.
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed Monday that its top commander, Gen. Stephen Townsend, visited Somalia last week and met with the Danab Brigade. AFRICOM did not explain why Townsend made the somewhat risky visit to Danab headquarters at the Baledogle Military Airfield.
The Danab Brigade is a crucial element of the SNA’s response to al-Shabaab terrorism. Although there are reportedly only about 700 Danab commandos based at Baledogle, the elite troops are involved in the majority of operations against al-Shabaab.