A week ago, the United States Air Force conducted airstrikes in Somalia that targeted the militant group, Al-Shabaab. It has been reported the attacks on the militant group’s base killed 150 of their fighters with no collateral damage occurring (Source). For those that do not know, collateral damage is just another term for civilian casualties. Thankfully, these attacks on Al-Shabaab did not kill any civilians, but a large amount of Al-Shabaab fighters were killed which is a great victory for the US military. Many people probably do not know much about Al-Shabaab since it is not one of the mainstream terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda along with the fact they operate in a country that does not get much news coverage: Somalia. With that said, it is vital to understand who Al-Shabaab is and what they want so we can determine the best way to counter the terrorist organization.
Al-Shabaab is allied with Al-Qaeda and primarily operates within the borders of Somalia, out of the country’s Southern and Central regions. Although the group mainly operates in Somalia, Al-Shabaab has proven capable of executing attacks outside the country like in Kenya when the militant group stormed a college campus, killing 150 people in the process. Since Somalia is considered a failed state because of the weak government, the country is a hotbed for radicalization thus leading to the rising of Al-Shabaab. The militant group does have a structure and is ran by the Shura Council which makes up the group’s leaders. Just like any other leaders, the Shura council sets forth the policies they want to carry out, expecting their subordinates to abide by them (Source). Their stated goal is to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic State much like ISIS is trying to do in Iraq, Syria, and increasingly Libya.
Even though all the news coverage goes to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the US has started to take the threat of Al-Shabaab more seriously. Before the US conducted the airstrikes that killed 150 Al-Shabaab fighters, intelligence was gathered that indicated Al-Shabaab was planning an imminent attack that would have affected the US and its allies. Clearly, this was not taken lightly by the US government because the militant group has shown they are fully capable of conducting attacks outside of Somalia. However, it is likely the attack on Al-Shabaab in Somalia was an aberration. The US is completely invested in the fight against ISIS, as the Iraq and Syria wars seem to have no end in sight with Libya developing to a bigger problem than expected. The point is the US is much more worried about the threat of ISIS than they are about Al-Shabaab, so I believe this was probably just a show of strength from the US. Al-Shabaab is a problem in Somalia and there is definitely never going to be peace in the country if they still have wide influence, but the US has not executed more than 12 airstrikes in a year within Somalia (Source); therefore, I do not see the US government changing their agenda to give the fight against Al-Shabaab increased attention at this time. Simply put, the US already has a lot on their plate.
Contributed by R.A.