(New York, N.Y.) — In a move to assist newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Somalia’s fight against al-Shabaab, President Joe Biden this week approved the redeployment of U.S. ground forces to the country—a reversal from the previous administration’s late-2020 decision to withdraw from the region. Along with redeployment, Biden also approved a request from the Pentagon to actively target about a dozen al-Shabaab leaders in the country.
Since 2012, Somalia has been confronted with increasing attacks by the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Given the ongoing attacks from the terrorist group, Somalia’s presidential and parliamentary elections had been delayed since 2021. According to security analysts, the power vacuum resulting from the divisions between Somali political leaders provided a boost to al-Shabaab militants.
“For several years now, East Africa, the Sahel, and West Africa have witnessed a declining security environment in parallel with an unprecedented growth of terrorist groups linked both to al-Qaeda as well as ISIS. Regional terrorist networks of affiliates of global terrorism structures—such as the al-Qaeda coalition Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM), the Islamic State West Africa Province, Islamic State Greater Sahara Province, and the Islamic State Central Africa Province—have transformed this part of the continent into an active terrorist zone. Al-Shabaab in East Africa, based in Somalia with cells in the wider region, was able to take advantage of Somalia’s political instability to solidify its position in the country,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler. “The Biden Administration’s strategic decision to once again conduct counter terrorist operations against al-Shabaab is an important milestone in steadying Somalia and by extension also East Africa.”
The order for U.S. forces to deploy comes weeks after the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to endorse the African Union’s new transitional mission in Somalia (ATMIS). On March 31, 2022, the new mission was authorized to take action against al-Qaeda and ISIS and conduct a phased handover of security responsibilities to Somalia’s government. ATMIS replaces the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which had been in the Horn of Africa nation for 15 years trying to build peace and security in the area.
To read CEP’s resource Somalia: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource Al-Shabaab, please click here.