WASHINGTON — A series of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia over the weekend killed at least 60 al-Shabaab terrorists as the Pentagon continued to surge its efforts against militants in eastern Africa.
Pentagon officials said Monday that two airstrikes Saturday killed at least 34 al-Shabaab militants while four airstrikes Sunday took out at least 28 al-Shabaab operatives.
Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Pentagon reporters that no civilians were killed or injured in the airstrikes, which he said were “to prevent terrorists from using remote areas as safe havens to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks.”
The airstrikes brought to 45 the number of hits from U.S. forces against al-Shabaab during 2018, a sharp increase from 2017.
There are roughly 500 U.S. military personnel in Somalia. Manning said there are between 3,000 and 7,000 al-Shabaab operatives and between 70 and 250 ISIS elements in Somalia.
According to the Counter Terrorism Guide, al-Shabaab is “the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts that took over most of southern Somalia in the second half of 2006. Despite the group’s defeat by Somali and Ethiopian forces in 2007, al-Shabaab—a clan-based insurgent and terrorist group—has continued its violent insurgency in southern and central Somalia.”
The Pentagon’s efforts in Somalia have risen since President Donald Trump took office and okayed expanding efforts against al-Shabaab. Initially the expanded effort focused on drone attacks. There were at least 30 strikes during 2017, the Pentagon said.
Since the more robust effort started in 2017, two U.S. service personnel have been killed and four wounded in Somalia, the Pentagon said. A study by the Long War Journal said al-Shabaab launched 418 attacks between October 2017 and April 2018.
The uptick comes in the wake of the Trump administration urging African nations to take on greater responsibility and action in fighting terrorist groups.
On Thursday, John Bolton, the national security adviser, outlined the new strategy that coincided with the Pentagon’s decision last month to reduce the 7,200 declared U.S. force on the African continent.
“Unfortunately, billions upon billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have not achieved the desired effects. They have not stopped the scourge of terrorism, radicalism, and violence. They have not prevented other powers, such as China and Russia, from taking advantage of African states to increase their own power and influence,” Bolton said last week. “From now on, the United States will not tolerate this long-standing pattern of aid without effect, assistance without accountability, and relief without reform.”