Kenya

US military chief pledges tougher action on Al-Shabaab

US military chief pledges tougher action on Al-Shabaab
  • But the biggest task is inside Somalia itself, political and security reforms must take place before 2021.

  • In Kenya, they took responsibility for the Dusit Hotel attack where 20 people were killed.

The new commander of the American military wing charged with fostering defence relations with Africa has promised tougher action on al-Shabaab, in the wake of recent deadly attacks by the terrorist group.

On his maiden tour of Somalia, Gen Stephen J Townsend who took over the mantle of the US-Africa Command last week, said the threats posed by al-Shabaab require sustained combat.

“Along with Somalia and other international partners, we will apply continued pressure on violent extremist organisations.

PRESSURE

“This pressure creates conditions and opportunity for further political and economic development,” he said in Somalia on Wednesday, after meeting with local Prime Minister Hassan Khaire.

Mr Townsend, the fifth such commander for Africom since its formation in 2008, was commander of the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), a US military wing that coordinates targeted attacks on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

He takes over from Mr Thomas D Waldhauser, who is retiring.

As leader of Africom, Mr Townsend will be charged with maintaining defence relations with the African Union and its member states, cooperating on operations against extremists in the Horn of Africa and in the Maghreb regions.

But the biggest task is inside Somalia itself, political and security reforms must take place before 2021.

AFRICOM

Africom which has a base in Djibouti routinely attacks Shabaab bases inside Somalia, to support ground forces from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and the nascent Somali National Army. Africom says it has permission from Mogadishu for the aerial attacks.

The US is also currently training the Somali Special Forces known as Danab. According to Mr Townsend, al-Shabaab remains the largest and deadliest terror organisation in East Africa despite showing signs of weaknesses.

“They are looking for an opening and an opportunity to do harm. If they could attack US interests and the homeland, they would. We can’t give them an opening. We must deny them that opportunity,” Mr Townsend said, according to comments provided by Africom.

“Degrading the capability of terrorists who operate here makes the entire region safer and prevents its export to other places. This is important work for our country, the Somalis, and our allies.”

Somalia is currently reviewing its constitution with a plan to conduct a one-person-one-vote election by 2021.

ELECTORAL REFORMS

On Wednesday, the country launched a public awareness campaign to sensitise people on electoral reforms. That campaign, however, is largely being guarded by Amisom as Shabaab threats linger.

The extremist group have recently people by deploying suicide missions.

It killed about 500 people in October 2007 in a truck bombing in Mogadishu.

In Kenya, they took responsibility for the Dusit Hotel attack where 20 people were killed. The Hotel reopened last week.

Townsend said supporting security agencies in Somalia will remain US objectives to ensure the SNA takes charge in two years.

“We invest in our partners, dedicating the time, energy, and commitment to make sure they are ready for any challenge.”