America’s War against Jihadism- Libya and Somalia in 2016
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The United States was engaged in warfare on multiple fronts in 2016 in the ongoing war against Islamic Jihadist groups. While the term “Global War on Terror” is not used by the U.S. government since at least 2013, the war on Islamic Jihadist groups, most notably the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaida (and various al-Qaida branches) and other Sunni Jihadist groups, is very much a globe-spanning effort, with active theaters of war in Africa, and in the Middle East, and active terror campaigns by ISIS and al-Qaida against targets in Europe, America, and elsewhere.
Here is a brief retrospective on American military efforts against Jihadist groups in Libya and in Somalia, just two of the multiple theaters of war in 2016.
NOTE: The Islamic State is also referred to as ISIS or ISIL, and also by the Arabic term Daesh.
The term Jihadist, as used here, indicates military and political groups that believe in a political-religious ideology based on the concept of violent “holy war” (Jihad in Arabic), with a goal of remaking all of society based on a fundamentalist return to what they consider traditional or “true” Sunni Islam. Groups that espouse this type of violent ideology include, but are not limited to: The Islamic State, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, al-Nusra, and the Taliban. All of these groups are violently opposed to any type of secular (i.e. non-religious) forms of government, and any non-Sunni Muslim faiths, especially Shiite Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism, among others.
Beginning on August 1, 2016, and officially concluding on December 19, 2016, the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Libya was called Operation Odyssey Lightning. In this operation, (which was part of the larger Libyan Civil War), American air and naval forces conducted 495 airstrikes, using drones, Navy and Marine ship-based warplanes, and Marine helicopters to support the UN and U.S.-supported Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) army as it battled ISIS forces in the coastal city of Sirte. American air strikes took out ISIS tanks, command centers, infantry positions, and other forces in support of the Libyan army’s ground campaign. U.S. Special Forces operators were on the ground in support of the GNA army and the U.S. airstrikes.
Video of U.S. airstrikes near Sirte–https://youtu.be/90HwHIjcq7k
Despite the victory over ISIS in Sirte, operations are expected to continue into 2017 as the Islamic State still has forces active in Libya.
U.S. forces that took part in Operation Odyssey Lightning included the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Navy’s Wasp Amphibious Ready Group.
The U.S. forces did not suffer any casualties in this air campaign. Other U.S. operations in Libya include a February 19, 2016 airstrike against an ISIS training camp near Sabratha, Libya. At least 43 alleged Jihadists, including a major ISIS leader, were killed in this airstrike.
The U.S. and a coalition of allied African nations have supported the relatively weak government of Somalia against various Islamic Jihadist groups over the past decade or so, with the current target of these efforts being the group known as al-Shabaab, which is aligned with al-Qaida.
In addition to providing training and logistics for the Somali and allied African forces fighting against al-Shabaab, the U.S. conducted over a dozen attacks against Jihadist forces in Somalia in 2016.
The more notable publicly-known U.S. actions against Shabaab forces in Somalia in 2016 include:
March 7, 2016-U.S. warplanes and drones struck an al-Shabaab “graduation ceremony,” killing approximately 150 Shabaab personnel.
March 31, 2016-U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against an al-Shabaab senior leader, Hassan Ali Dhoore.
May 27, 2016-U.S. forces carried out an airstrike against Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, one of al-Shabaab’s most senior commanders, who is also part of al-Qa’ida and served as the principal coordinator of al-Shabaab’s attacks in Somalia and Kenya.
September 26, 2016-U.S. troops assisting Somali government forces in the Somali port of Kismayo came under attack by Shabaab forces, prompting a retaliatory strike by the U.S.
With the U.S. maintaining 200 to 300 troops in Somalia in support of the Somali government and the allied forces from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, it is known that the Americans accompany allied forces in the field, and many combat actions involving these troops is likely not made public. The extent to which Americans engage Jihadist forces in Somalia is most likely much greater than the U.S. public is aware.
Again, as in the ongoing Libyan war, American war-making in Somalia will continue in 2017.