U.S. forces carried out a drone strike that killed five members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab on Friday. The strike is the first to target the terrorist group in Somalia since February and the first strike in the country since President Joe Biden ordered more U.S. troops back into the country in May.
A press release from the Federal Republic of Somalia’s Ministry of Information confirmed the U.S. carried out the strike in coordination with the Somali government.
The Somali government statement said the U.S. airstrike came after Al-Shabaab fighters attacked “partner forces” near Beer Xani earlier on Friday.
The Somali government assessed no civilian casualties as a result of the U.S. strike.
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which oversees U.S. military operations throughout Africa, did not immediately respond to an American Military News request for comment.
On May 16, President Joe Biden ordered around 500 U.S. troops to deploy to Somalia to once again establish a “persistent presence” in the country. Biden’s decision essentially reversed a decision President Donald Trump made in January 2021 to withdraw the majority of U.S. troops from the country.
The U.S. has been in and out of Somalia for the past three decades. In December 1992, President George H.W. Bush ordered U.S. forces to assist in a United Nations humanitarian mission known as Operation Restore Hope.
In the summer of 1993, President Bill Clinton sent a contingent of U.S. forces known as Task Force Ranger to track down a Somali warlord known as Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who had been attacking U.N. troops. The Clinton-era operation, known as Operation Gothic, ended in the Battle of Mogadishu and the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in which two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by Aidid’s forces. Clinton withdrew U.S. troops from Somalia just days after the Battle of Mogadishu.
The U.S. provided financial support for a Somali faction known as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) against the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in a period of conflict in 2006 known as the Second Battle of Mogadishu.
U.S. forces returned to Somalia in 2007 under President George W. Bush to support the Federal Republic of Somalia after the dissolution of ICU. U.S. troops have continued to assist the Somali government since, in their ongoing fight against Al-Shabaab. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both presided over periods of U.S. military presence in Somalia.
Even after U.S. troops largely withdrew from Somalia in 2021, U.S. strikes in Somalia continued throughout 2021.
On May 16, a senior Biden administration official said the Trump-era decision to reduce the U.S. presence in Somalia from around 750 troops to a much smaller “rotational presence” had “created a very real force protection risk” and made U.S. forces less efficient by causing them to spend more time transferring equipment and conducted strikes in Somalia from outside the country.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Biden’s decision to put more U.S. troops in Somalia is “not a deployment with an end date.” Kirby further characterized the new troop deployment as a “change of posture” that “will allow us to do a better, more consistent job.”