Last week I covered the peace talks between the United States Government and the network of Islamic extremists and Salafist jihadists known as Al-Qaeda. A week ago, there were two Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) detonated at a gate of a military airstrip that serves as a base for U.S. and Somali forces. This was done by a terrorist group know as al-Shabab in Somalia, they are part of a terrorist network with ties to Al-Qaeda.
The airstrip in Baledogle is an outpost used to house U.S. special forces, Somali commandos and an airstrip for drones to launch from. AFRICOM (Africa Command) said they launched an airstrike against al-Shabab in support of Somali troops who were under attack by al-Shabab, about two weeks prior to this attack. There were reports of gunfire that could be heard across the base as an ongoing attack was occurring. No American or Somali forces were killed or injured in this attack. Somali forces held off the attack of the two VBIEDs and heavy gunfire.
In retaliation to this attack by al-Shabab, the U.S. military targeted al-Shabab militants killing at least 10 fighters and destroyed a vehicle. Somali insurgents launched a counterattack targeting an outpost used to house U.S. forces. In a separate attack, al-Shabab targeted Italian peacekeepers in Mogadishu, the suicide bomber in a VBIED missed the convoy and wounded nearby civilians.
Major General William Gayler, a U.S. Africa Command Director, told militarytimes.com, “This attack, though ineffective, demonstrates the direct threat al-Shabaab poses to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region.” Maj. Gen. Gayler finished his statement with “Incidents like this will not compromise the pressure being placed on this terrorist network by the Federal Government of Somalia and international partners.”
U.S. Officials say there are anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 Shabab militants and 100-300 ISIS-Somalian fighters in the region. Due to operations security, there are no confirmed numbers of American forces on the ground in the airbase.
The U.S. has provided more than half a billion dollars to the Somali government to train and equip them to battle this extremist group. Since 2006, al-Shabab has tried to capitalize on the weakness of the Somali government and at one point controlled more than 20% of the capital in Mogadishu. Kenyan troops helped push the al-Shabab troops out of Mogadishu, only to become a new target for the al-Shabab regime; they have conducted more than 150 attacks in Kenya.
The main objective for the U.S. military is to help the Somali government to reduce the capabilities of the al-Shabab militant group harming Somalia, its neighboring countries, the U.S. or it’s allies. Somalia has been used to house international terrorists and al-Shabab challenges the U.S. military efforts to help restore balance in the region with humanitarian aid and security.