Amid Syria’s five-year-old civil war and Iraq’s push to expel the Islamic State group from its major cities, President Barack Obama has quietly reneged on promises of “no boots on the ground” in recent years.
But another American ground battle lingers just outside of the spotlight, in Somalia.
A campaign involving private contractors, drone strikes and up to 300 U.S. Special Operations troops against the al Qaeda offshoot group al-Shabab has been escalating there over the past year, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing “senior American military officials.”
Operations in the country, located in the eastern “Horn of Africa,” are expected to expand, according to the Times, on top of efforts that have involved the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, weekly raids with troops from nearby Kenya and Uganda and interrogation of prisoners.
The American use of force there hasn’t exactly been welcome. At the end of September, for instance, Somalia’s Security Minister Osman Issa accused the U.S. of killing 22 Somali soldiers in an airstrike, the result of bad intelligence information.
In March, U.S. drones and piloted aircraft killed at least 150 people in a bombing attack, calling the mission one of “self-defense,” as the militants “posed an imminent threat” to the U.S. and its allies. The attack targeted an al-Shabab “graduation ceremony,” officials told the New York Times. But, as The Intercept pointed out, the Obama administration provided no identities of those killed and no evidence to back up its claims.
But the operations are nothing new, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which documented U.S. military actions there—many of them covert—since 2001.
Somalia, along with Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, isn’t alone when it comes to American military involvement. On Thursday, Oct. 13, the U.S. engaged in direct military action with Somalia’s neighbor, Yemen, entering into a civil war there between the Yemeni government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Until then, participation had only been indirect, with the American government providing aid to Saudi Arabia, whose campaign has stirred criticism in the U.S. Congress for its mounting civilian casualties.
The U.S. and Britain quickly called for a ceasefire in Yemen, though it's not clear whether the same can be said for Somalia anytime soon.