Thursday September 15, 2022
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin (L) and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (R) will meet at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Mogadishu (HOL) - Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will travel to America on Thursday, where he will meet the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, to discuss American engagement in Somalia.Biden authorized the deployment of approximately 500 troops to Somalia in mid-May to "reestablish a small, persistent US military presence in Somalia" that would assist the Somali government in combating the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab insurgency.
The meeting comes as the Biden administration has increased its presence in Somalia following the abrupt withdrawal of US troops by then-President Donald Trump in late 2020.
Since announcing the US military's return to Somalia, AFRICOM conducted an airstrike that killed five Al Shabaab fighters in June. Weeks later, another airstrike killed two suspected militants in Southern Somalia. In August, the US conducted at least five airstrikes that killed an estimated 17 Al Shabaab members.
According to a damning report from the Defense Department's Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Pentagon research institution, Islamist militant extremism has increased by nearly 300% in Africa in the last decade. Al Shabaab has been one of the deadliest and most effective terror groups, accounting for an estimated 36% of all militant Islamist group violence on the continent this year.
The group has also been dubbed Africa's wealthiest terror organization, collecting an estimated $120 million through extortion and other rackets in 2020.
According to the Africa Center, Somalia and the Sahel region have seen over 90% of the rise in African militant Islamist violence since 2019.
Somalia's president has vowed to tackle the Al Shabaab insurgency with "total war" in mid-August after the militant group staged a deadly hotel siege in the heart of Mogadishu that killed dozens of civilians.
On Monday, Mohamud urged citizens to stay away from Al Shabaab-controlled areas as the SNA and local allied militia continue their offensive to liberate areas in central Somalia. The Somali military said that over 20 villages were liberated during security operations in two regional states.
According to a source close to Villa Somalia, President Mohamud will discuss the three-decade-long UN arms embargo on Somalia, which has been extended annually since and is currently in force until 15 November 2022.
Mohamud is serving his second term as Somalia's president. He served as president from 2012 to 2017.
Mohamud last visited the United States in 2016.
Somalia has been a frontline in the US war on terror for the past two decades. The United States has carried out 260 airstrikes and ground raids in Somalia over the last 15 years. Since 2009, the United States has spent more than $2 billion on security assistance to the Somali military, including its elite Danab Special Commando Brigade.