‘Threat is Higher’: US Airstrikes Against Somalia’s Al-Shabaab Have Increased in 2020


US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has increased the tempo of its airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia in 2020 after a January attack on a US base in neighboring Kenya.

In 2019, the US carried out a record 63 airstrikes in Somalia, and as of mid-March it’s already carried out 26 strikes in 2020, AFRICOM spokesperson Navy Lt. Christina Gibson told Military Times, noting the rate “lightly exceeds last year’s pace.”

However, if strikes continue at this pace, the number could well top 100 by the end of the year.

AFRICOM chief Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend has defended the increased tempo, telling Voice of America earlier this week that “the threat is higher” in the wake of al-Shabaab’s daring attack on Manda Bay Air Base in Kenya in late January. “That’s exactly why you’ve seen this increase in strike activity.”

Townshend told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that if left “unchecked,” al-Shabaab, which is closely associated with al-Qaeda, and Daesh’s franchise in the Sahara and West Africa, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), would become “a threat beyond the region.”

“Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically violent arm of al-Qaeda,” the AFRICOM commander told US lawmakers. “They are a serious threat to not only the Somali people, but the entire region, and one example [is] in a recent attack in Kenya. Another example is their threats to embassies in the region outside of Somalia….

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