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Somalis push back Al-Shabaab as US considers returning

Tuesday July 6, 2021
by Steve Balestrieri

The Somali National Army (SNA) recently recaptured the key town of Ba’adweyn from al-Shabaab terrorists. The SNA has been conducting offensive operations for the past several months.

A U.S. soldier trains Somali Special Forces operators. (U.S. Air Force)

Four months ago, al-Shabaab terrorists had captured the important supply town, located in the Mudug region. They had been using it as a base wherefrom to attack government facilities and officials, military bases, and the population. Al-Shabaab is aligned with al-Qaeda.

Somali state media announced that early on Tuesday, Somali troops pushed al-Shabaab out of Ba’adweyn and several neighboring towns including Haradhere and Imaamd, forcing many of the al-Shabaab terrorists to escape after their positions became untenable.

“Somali National Army along with Galmudug regional Darwish forces took over control of Ba’adweyn town and surrounding areas in the early hours of Tuesday, military officials confirmed,” the state media reported.

“Troops from the 21st Division of the Somali National Army have captured Haradhere and Imaamd, al-Shabaab stronghold villages in the Mudug region. Terrorists fled before the Army arrived. This comes as the SNA took over full control of the Ba’adweyn town on Tuesday morning,” the media added.

The Somali army has received backing and training from the U.S. and U.K.

General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, addresses Somali troops. (DoD)

The Danab Brigade, the Lynchpin of the Somali Army

Until former President Trump abruptly pulled American troops out of Somalia, the United States had kept a small but significant footprint in the country. There were reportedly about 700 special operations troops operating out of the Baledogle Airfield, in Walaweyn District, Lower Shabelle Region.

The U.S. troops were training the members of the Danab Brigade. Danab, which means “lighting,” is an elite brigade-size Somali unit, funded by the U.S., that is battling al-Shabaab terrorists in the Horn of Africa.

Danab recruits are vetted through a non-profit organization paid for by the U.S. State Department.

The unit is critical to the success of the SNA. Earlier this year, Danab operations made up 80 percent of all Somali counter-Shabaab operations.

Since their withdrawal from the country at the end of the Trump administration, the Special Operations troops have been “commuting to work” from other parts of the African continent and Europe.

Somali operators from the Danab Brigade are doing the lion’s share of the fighting against al-Shabaab.

Could the US Return to Somalia?

The commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Army General Stephen Townsend, said that “there’s really no denying” that the Trump administration’s sudden decision last December to pull most U.S. forces out of Somalia raised the level of risk across the Horn of Africa. The pull-out had come as President Trump sought to end America’s “forever wars.”

Speaking at the European Union Defense Washington Forum last week, Townsend said the best way to help the Somalis is to work along with them “side-by-side.”

While stating that it is harder to train Somali forces from far away, he made his case for resuming a presence in the country.

“I would say, though, that there’s really no denying our repositioning — fairly sudden repositioning — out of Somalia earlier this year has introduced new layers of risk and complexity to our mission there,” Townsend said.

Another issue facing the SOF troops now is the lack of airstrikes and drone strikes that were taking a toll, albeit a small one on al-Shabaab’s leadership. The Biden administration has stopped drone strikes on al-Shabaab and has not conducted any since taking office on January 20. In contrast, the U.S. had conducted seven airstrikes against al-Shabaab just in the first 19 days of January.


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