U.S. airstrikes in Somalia can also lead to unintended consequences that actually help al-Shabab, said Jocelyn Trainer, an expert on the Horn of Africa with the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, D.C.
“First, part of al-Shabaab’s longevity is due to their adaptive recruitment methods — including leveraging U.S. airstrikes for propaganda, highlighting the Somali government’s inability to provide security for civilians, and leveraging existing grievances that people have stemming from the death of loved ones, both innocent civilians and fighters,” Trainer told Task & Purpose.
Al-Shabaab has also proven that it can recover from losses in leaders and foot soldiers caused by U.S. airstrikes, Trainer said.
Moreover, while the number of U.S. airstrikes has gone up and down since 2019, the overall level of violence in Somalia has remained roughly the same, she said.
“If the goal is to maintain or increase U.S. airstrikes in Somalia, then the United States is meeting it,” Trainer said. “If the goal is to reduce the power and presence of al-Shabaab or the Somali government’s reliance on U.S. military assistance, I’m not sure the United States is meeting the mark.”
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