Lies, coercion, and deceit. These are a few of the malign tactics, techniques and procedures of terrorist organizations. Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaida affiliate in East Africa, is no exception.
Terrorist organizations often spread disinformation and falsities as propaganda to bolster their destructive cause and to aid recruiting efforts. This is particularly true when losses on the battlefield are mounting and their footing is beginning to slip, which is the current case of al-Shabaab in Somalia.
For example, the al-Shabaab terrorists recently proclaimed a great victory, which is easy to do when you are not bound by the truth, nor a moral code. The terrorist group even released a 52 minute video earlier this month narrated by al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeyda in which Abu Ubeyda makes false claims and congratulates those who participated in the attack. To be clear, the claims made by al-Shabaab regarding a recent assault on a Somali military compound in Baledogle are simply untrue.
While the terrorists proclaim to have inflicted a significant blow, the truth is that on the morning of Sept. 30, a squad of al-Shabaab extremists attempted to gain access to the base — 15 al-Shabaab fighters were swiftly killed by the Somali and U.S. forces guarding the installation. They lost their lives as well as their weapons and equipment.
Three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices were part of the failed attack, but they proved futile as two were denoted and destroyed before being able to enter the base. The third was destroyed by a precision airstrike.
In the end, one U.S. service member was treated for concussion symptoms, but there were no other U.S. or partner-force casualties. This is why the terrorists have not released any photos supporting their propaganda or claims of profuse U.S. casualties, because they simply don’t exist.
That same day the terrorists attempted an additional attack in Somalia on one of our European partners; this attack similarly failed.
There is little doubt al-Qaida and al-Shabaab will continue to spread lies about their actions in Somalia, but the facts on the ground don’t support their narrative. The broader Somali reality and efforts to bring about progress in the areas of diplomacy, development and defense are underreported. What is occurring in Somalia is truly an international effort and has resulted in incremental progress along these lines of effort.
We are seeing our Somali security partners lead successful incursions into al-Shabaab territory, build forward operating bases, and hold the ground — thus enabling the federal government of Somalia to extend its influence and better support its people. We believe the U.S.’s small, but strategic footprint approach is sustainable and is supporting the incremental progress we’ve observed.
From our perspective at U.S. Africa Command, the desired end-state in East Africa is one in which terrorist organizations are unable to destabilize Somalia or its neighbors, nor threaten U.S. and international allies’ interests. We recognize that stability in Somalia will not be achieved through purely military means. It requires sustained development and governance. The Somali partner forces and AMISOM are working extremely hard to create security conditions to enhance governance and economic development.
The people of Somalia deserve peace and stability after decades of terror and war waged by violent extremists. These terrorists have aspirations to conduct attacks not just in East Africa, but in Europe and the U.S. as well. While they don’t have the capability to strike the U.S. homeland today, they certainly possess an intent to do so. The Somali people reject al-Shabaab’s tactics of coercion and brutality. Al-Shabaab has exacted a terrible humanitarian cost and displaced countless innocent people. They routinely resort to lies in an effort to generate headlines and create false narratives. The overwhelming majority of Somali people reject these lies, and it’s important that communities and media organizations of all types do the same to prevent the spread of false terrorist narratives. The truth is, progress is being made in Somalia, and on the African continent. The efforts help secure the safety of not only African partners, but the U.S. as well.
Brig. Gen. Miguel Castellanos isU.S. Africa Command deputy director of operations.
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