In January, the New York Times reported that the Trump transition team sent a four page series of questions to the State Department about U.S. policy on Africa regarding foreign aid programs and U.S. Counter-terrorism efforts.
I did find the following question– “We’ve been fighting al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?”— a reasonable one to ask the State Department and the Pentagon.
Al-Shabaab is al-Qaida affiliate militant group battling the U.S. backed embattled Somali government, and has been waging deadly attacks in south Somalia and neighboring Kenya.
To counter the threat of al-Shabaab, the Pentagon has been seeking to expand its military involvement in Somalia. And, on Wednesday, President Trump authorized the Pentagon’s plan to escalate its anti-terror campaign against al-Shabaab, including designating parts Somalia “an active war zone” for military targeting for at least 180 days, according to the Pentagon officials cited in a new York Times story.
This followed President Trump’s request from the Pentagon for a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIL, and al-Qaida affiliate groups.
But the military operations can exacerbate humanitarian efforts; currently millions of Somalis are on the brink of famine. There is a possibility of al-Shabaab using civilian casualties as propaganda against America, which could further undermine U.S. interests in the region.
United States could be seen dictating the political outcomes of Somalia’s multifaceted power struggle. The escalation of U.S. involvement would embolden the corrupt government in Mogadishu in the belief they would be able to rely on the U.S. Africa Command, created by George W. Bush administration in 2008, to do their bidding.
Somalia’s struggle against al-Shabaab is not only a military one but a political one. Without any real political progress on the ground, or reliable local partner, the Pentagon’s efforts to back African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops and Somali army made up rival clan militias in the campaign against al-Shabaab would be futile.