- Increase of U.S. military personnel in Somalia (Dramatic increase from 2016, when AFRICOM only acknowledged 50 American troops on the ground and now has more than 500 troops.
- U.S. expanding its operations at a former Soviet airstrip in Somalia.
- U.S. constructing over 800 beds at the Baledogle military base.
- U.S. military infrastructure developments in Somalia. Cited to construct at least six military outposts in 2019.
- Aggressive air escalation against the Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia.
- Security experts viewing U.S. intervention in Somali as a little too late since the terror group has been able to create cells beyond Somalia (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and into Central Africa).
- Intensified U.S. airstrikes could further aggravate fragile situation and most likely, increase terrorism in the region.
U.S. increased military buildup and operations in Somalia highlights the imminent growing threat in the country and the region.
In 2016, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) acknowledged that there were only 50 American troops on the ground in Somalia offering advisory support to the Somalia National Army (SNA) and other African Union peacekeepers. This number has steadily grown and now, according to AFRICOM sources, there are more than 500 U.S. military personnel in Somalia.
The U.S. military has dramatically expanded its operations in Somalia over the past two years. Ranging from expansion of a former Soviet air strip in Somalia, constructing more than 800 beds at the Baledogle military base and infrastructure development projects that will see at least six new U.S. outposts built this year (2019).
The U.S. interventions in the war-torn Somalia has been viewed by security experts as case of a little too late since the terror group has been able to create cells beyond Somalia. The Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab has established active cells in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and into Central Africa.
U.S. has escalated its air campaigns against the Islamists terrorist groups in Somalia over the past 2-3 years. In 2015, U.S. conducted 11 airstrikes, 15 airstrikes in 2016 and 35 airstrikes in 2017. Airstrikes recorded at Strategic Intelligence indicate that U.S. conducted 48 airstrikes in Somalia in 2018 and barely in three months of 2019 it has conducted 24 airstrikes against terrorists’ group in Somalia.
While these airstrikes have been supportive in elimination and disrupting of terrorist networks in Somalia, the same could aggravate the fragile situation in Somalia and further increase terrorism in the region. AFRICOM usually assess the situation after U.S. conducting an airstrike in Somalia. They provide (data) in terms of numbers on the enemy casualties and what enemy assets have been destroyed but no civilian casualties are reported in their assessments. The extremist groups using their media channel also paint these airstrikes in a bad light for warfare strategy purposes. By indicating civilians are targeted in these airstrikes, the scenario of the terrorist group in Somalia gaining sympathizers and new recruits comes in and threat cycle continues.
The rise in airstrikes has also exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country, according to UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations working in Somalia, as civilians are displaced by ongoing conflict and extreme weather.
Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of AFRICOM, recently admitted that the increased U.S. airstrikes in Somalia cannot completely neutralize the enemy threat but can only support SNA and other partner troops.
U.S. is also involved in training the Somali National Army’s special forces known as Danab and the Somali National Intelligence Security (NISA) known as Gaashaan and Waran. Waran has grown to over 300 agents, while Gaashaan now counts roughly 400. There are rousing alarm among local officials over this increased military collaboration between US and Somalia besides questioning the loyalty of the soldiers trained.
Multiple former Somali security and political officials described a power dynamic in which American officials can threaten to withhold funding or push for the firing of Somali officials who challenge their authority. They also sometimes use U.S.-trained Somali forces without the approval or oversight of their Somali counterparts.
With African Union Peacekeepers planning to withdraw from Somalia by 2020, U.S. increased operations could have dire ramifications in Somalia and the religion. Citing the usual anti-West campaigns by the terrorist groups, expect terrorist sympathizers to increase, new recruits joining the terror camps to fight the ‘apostate’ encroaching their country, expect terror threat to compound parallel to U.S. increased operations in the horn of Africa nation in the coming years.