Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of Somalia, was welcomed to the Pentagon on Thursday for a bilateral meeting and a heightened honour cordon by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
In a brief statement, Villa Somalia expressed gratitude to the defence secretary for hosting his delegation.
“We appreciate Lloyd James Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, coming to visit and meeting with us. The foundation for regional and global peace is Somalia’s peace and stability. We appreciate the US’s dedication to the fight against terrorism.”
According to security experts, the meeting’s main goal was probably to improve Somalia’s military’s ability to combat Al Shabaab, which US generals have called Al Qaeda’s deadliest group. Fighting a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s internationally supported government, the group
President Mohamud explained to senior US Defense officials during the meeting that Al Shabaab has stymied development in the Horn of Africa and that Somalia will need international cooperation to defeat the group.
Austin and Mohamud “exchanged views on the security outlook for the Horn of Africa in light of climate shocks, humanitarian issues, conflict, and the threat of violent extremism,” according to a statement from the DoD.
Austin also praised President Mohamud for his cooperation with the American authorities.
“Secretary Austin reaffirmed the Department’s dedication to battling violent extremism and expressed gratitude for the administration of President Hassan Sheikh’s willingness to welcome American forces. He praised President Hassan Sheikh’s initiative in reviving the Somali security forces and actively interacting with the United States and other international partners. The two are eager to strengthen their mutual defence relationship.”
Jake Sullivan, the US national security advisor, and Mohamud are also scheduled to meet.
After a deadly hotel siege that resulted in the deaths of numerous innocent bystanders, Mohamud vowed to wage “total war” against Al Shabaab.
Since March 2008, the US State Department has acknowledged Al Shabaab. A bounty of up to $6 million has been offered by the US for information that can result in the capture or death of its top leaders, who have been designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the US.
Al Shabaab has reportedly been one of the deadliest and most effective terror organisations on the continent this year, responsible for an estimated 36% of all militant Islamist group violence, according to a damning report from the Pentagon’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The group has also been dubbed Africa’s wealthiest terrorist group; in 2020, it is expected to bring in $120 million through extortion and other illegal means
The group has demonstrated its ability to attack US military targets.
Up to 40 “determined, disciplined, and well-resourced” Al Shabab fighters attacked US and Kenyan soldiers stationed at Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, in January 2020. Specialist Henry J. Mayfield of the US Army and Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett, both US contractors, died in the attack.
According to a later investigation by U.S. Africa Command, it was the deadliest assault on American forces in Africa since October 2017 and it destroyed $71.5 million worth of US property, including several aircraft.
The US has conducted at least 260 airstrikes and ground raids in Somalia over the past 20 years, making it a frontline in the war on terror.
The US has conducted several airstrikes targeting Al Shabaab positions in coordination with the Somali government since Biden approved plans to redeploy US troops to Somalia.
Even though the strikes have largely been successful, activists and conflict observers are still concerned about the possibility of civilian casualties. One civilian was killed during Biden’s presidency, according to Airwars, a UK-based non-profit that monitors international airstrikes.
Although the Pentagon only acknowledges that five civilians have died and twelve have been injured since 2007, activists assert that the number of non-combatants killed may reach 3,000. According to Airwars, US attacks have resulted in the deaths of 78–153 civilians, including 20–23 children.
The Pentagon unveiled its new approach to dealing with civilian casualties earlier this year. As instructed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, military personnel will be required to take into account potential civilian harm in any airstrike, ground raid, or other types of combat under the Department of Defense’s Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan, or CHMR-AP.
The US has invested more than $2 billion in military security assistance for Somalia since 2009, including arming and preparing the prestigious Danab Special Commando Brigade.