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US airstrikes in Somalia continue despite troop drawdown

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It is often forgotten that US forces are fighting terrorism in several places outside Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Despite a troop drawdown, there still several units in Africa, with Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, and the Sahel G5 (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania) housing the majority of US troops in the continent.

In the past few weeks alone, the US military has conducted at least four targeted strikes against terrorist targets in Somalia. On January 1, US aircraft engaged two terrorist compounds, destroying six buildings and damaging one near Qunyo Barrow. On January 13, a US aircraft destroyed an al-Shabaab compound near Buulo Fulaa. Then, on January 19, US aircraft conducted two airstrikes in Jamaame and Deb Scinnele.

Intelligence assessments from all three operations indicate that at least seven terrorists were killed and one wounded, while no civilians were harmed.

“These strikes targeted known al-Shabaab leaders involved in IED facilitation, fighter training, and attack planning,” said U.S. Air Force Major General Dagvin Anderson, the commander of Joint Task Force-Quartz, in a press release.

“Striking these leaders disrupts al-Shabaab’s ability to attack our partners and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians with improvised explosive devices. We are working closely with our Somali partners to support their operations against al-Shabaab, protect their people, and provide governance.”

ISR footage from the January 1 airstrike against an al-Shabaab compound in Somalia (AFRICOM).

Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group that controls large swaths of land in Somalia. Its aim is to establish sharia law in the region, and al-Shabaab terrorists have been behind numerous deadly attacks in Somalia and neighboring Kenya.

“This strike in Buulo Fulaay combined with recent strikes, shows our resolve and degrades al-Shabaab’s ability to threaten Somalia and its neighbors,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, Joint Task Force – Quartz commander. “Side by side with our partners, we plan to leave no safe place for al-Shabaab to hide.”

Late last year, the Pentagon started Operation Octave Quartz, a mission that will reposition the majority of US troops stationed in Somalia to other countries.

In order to effectively withdraw from Somalia, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) established the Joint Task Force-Quartz. JTF-Quartz is comprised of the components (Joint Force Special Operations Component Command, Joint Force Maritime Component Command, and Joint Air Component Coordination Element). The task force has three priorities: to safely reposition US forces from Somalia to other African countries; to protect US forces; and to support regional partners in their fight against violent extremist organizations, like Al-Shabaab.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.