US Strikes on ISIS in Somalia Underscore Threat, Vulnerabilities
On November 3, the United States carried out two separate airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Somalia, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced in a statement. The operations marked the first time that US forces have targeted ISIS militants in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa country, where al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab has been the primary focus of American and partner efforts in recent years.
The strikes also underscore the shift in ISIS’ center of gravity following the group’s losses not only in Iraq and Syria this year, but also the routing of its affiliate in Libya last December. These developments have sent surviving fighters and arms flowing into more remote areas, including the Sahel, where the killing of four US Special Forces troops in an ambush in Niger in October focused attention on the new front lines of the fight. While most of the counterterrorism focus is on North and West Africa, where many ISIS recruits originally came from, the eastern side of the continent presents its own vulnerabilities.
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