The United States boosted its military efforts against jihadis in Africa under President Donald Trump, launching a record 36 airstrikes on the al-Qaeda wing al-Shabaab in Somalia in 2018, already more than any other single year, Voice of America (VOA) reported Thursday, citing U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
U.S. airstrikes have killed scores of al-Shabaab terrorists, including 53 between November 19 and 27.
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) November 28, 2018
Local sources told VOA Somali that the latest strike [on November 27] targeted al-Shabab vehicles. The sources say the vehicles belonged to Abdishakur Mohamed Mire, a junior al-Shabab military commander. There was no confirmation on whether Mire was traveling in one of the vehicles at the time. … The latest operation brings the number of U.S. strikes in Somalia this year to 36, all of them against al-Shabab. The figure marks the highest number of strikes ever conducted by the U.S. military within a single year in Somalia.
AFRICOM insists that its latest strikes did not “injure or kill any civilians.”
“U.S. forces, in cooperation with the government of Somalia, are conducting ongoing counterterrorism operations against al-Shabab and ISIS-Somalia to degrade the groups’ ability to recruit, train and plot terror attacks in Somalia and the region,” AFRICOM told VOA.
America’s intensified military operations in 2018 may not carry into the coming year.
In November, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced that the United States is expected to pull out more than 700 American troops from Africa, noting:
[Counterterrorism] activities in several areas, including Somalia, Djibouti, and Libya largely remain the same. In other regions, such as West Africa, emphasis shifts from tactical assistance to advising, assisting, liaising, and sharing intelligence. Overall, optimization efforts retain the flexibility to adjust, as required, to maintain a competitive posture in a dynamic, global environment.
The move is part of the Trump administration’s decision to pivot away from the war on terror to focus on deterring strategic competitors like China and Russia. However, China is expanding its military footprint in Africa, home to Beijing’s first overseas naval base in Djibouti, VOA revealed early this year.
U.S. government and independent assessments have found that China is employing “neo-colonialism” tactics in Africa in the form of “predatory” loans collateralized with natural resources and strategic assets.
The Trump administration has blasted China for its “predatory” lending practices on the continent.