By Kris Osborn - Warrior Global Security
A lethal terrorist ambush in Somali has again highlighted longstanding Pentagon and US State Department efforts to combat terrorism, protect forward-positioned servicemembers, support allies and enable international humanitarian efforts in the high-risk, yet strategically significant areas of East Africa.
Security efforts are intensifying near Mogadishu following the attack, which killed one US Special Operations soldier and injured four more in Somalia. The ambush is believed to have been carried out by Al Shabaab – a well-known and highly dangerous jihadist terrorist group in the region.
State Department officials explain that stepped up efforts in Somalia have been underway for quite some time; a formal mission to Somalia was stood up in 2015 as a way to build upon the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The Department is in the process of establishing a diplomatic mission in Mogadishu to more effectively represent and advance U.S. foreign policy interests in Somalia,” a US State Department official told Warrior Global Security in a written statement.
The official further elaborated that the effort will strengthen international partnerships and reinforce Somali effort to “advanced political, economic and security reforms.”
Naturally, when it comes to Somalia, the initiatives involve a combined State Department-Pentagon effort.
During a recent exchange with reporters, Defense Secretary James Mattis explained that a few dozen US Special Forces were training and supporting about 1,000 Africa Union and Somali troops in the area. The forces were conducting a multi-day operation to root out Al Shabaab militants and establish a permanent combat outpost, a CBS news report stated.
“They were hit by indirect fire. It was mortars we think,” Mattis said, according to a Pentagon transcript. “We fight with our allies. US forces are there to advise them how to go about their job, train them in all the things that we do. They're not in the combat.”
Djibouti, the Horn of Africa, Somalia and other nearby East African territories have long been a focal point for US military operations, including a large amount of Special Operations counterterrorism missions.
Al Shabaab, known to have ties to al Qaeda in recent years, describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam,” often attacking the Somali government, African Union Mission and humanitarian efforts in the area such as United Nations and US AID initiatives.
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. Their presence, along with risks from other violent extremist groups, aggressive tribes and jihadi organizations, has inspired a widespread US State Department and DoD effort to train local allied forces and safeguard US and international assets in the area.