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Freedom's Sentinel - Horn of Africa

Donald Trump ramped up US military operations in Somalia, authorizing pre-emptive airstrikes against the terror group al-Shabaab. The official grade of certainty that civilians won't be killed was reportedly lowered from "near certainty" to "reasonable certainty."

On 30 March 2017 Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis on U.S. Counterterrorism Operations in Somalia stated "The president has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces operations to defeat al-Shabaab in Somalia. This authority is consistent with our approach of developing capable Somali security forces and supporting regional partners in their efforts to combat al-Shabaab. Somali and AMISOM forces have already achieved significant success in recapturing territory from al-Shabaab, and additional U.S. support will help them increase pressure on al-Shabaab and reduce the risk to our partner forces when they conduct operations. We stand with the international community in supporting the federal government of Somalia as it strives to improve stability and security in Somalia. The additional support provided by this authority will help deny al-Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack U.S. citizens or U.S. interests in the region.

Under the administration of President Barack Obama, the US had only been able to employ air-strikes against al-Shabaab militants in self-defense situations when African Union or Somali government troops accompanied by US advisers, came under attack.

Since 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was the umbrella term for GWOT campaigns in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, such as OEF-Afghanistan, OEF-Philippines and OEF-Horn of Africa. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) ended on December 31, 2014 and transitioned to Operation Freedoms Sentinel (OFS) on January 1, 2015. OFS is a contingency operation in accordance with Title 10 USC 101(a)(13). Afghanistan is the OFS Designated Operational Area. As of early 2017 there were about 50 US commandos rotating in and out of Somalia to advise and assist the local troops.

Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan for Freedom's Sentinel continue to be awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, while those serving abroad outside the ACM area of eligibility qualify for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

The African Union leads a peacekeeping force in Somalia, but it had been unable to stem the growth of the terrorist group Al Shabaab, which has been suspected of carrying out the latest car bombing. This organization also threatens the neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, two of Africas most promising economies but each with their own challenges when it comes to the Somali minority within their respective borders.

Leaders of the Somali National Army met with international military and civilian officials to discuss the future of Somalias security at the 2017 SNA Symposium in downtown Mogadishu, 10 January 2017. The symposium is part of an ongoing international effort to aid security conditions throughout Somalia by fostering the growth and revitalization of the national military defense force, which disbanded following the collapse of the countrys central government in 1991.

Recommendations sent to the White House in late February 2017 would allow US special operations forces to increase assistance to the Somali National Army fighting al-Shabab militants. The proposal would give the military greater flexibility to launch airstrikes against extremists that appear to be a threat. THis would include giving special forces greater ability to accompany local troops on military operations against al-Shabab and easing restrictions on when the US can conduct airstrikes against the group. The US could target al-Shabab fighters gathering for an attack rather than waiting until friendly forces were under fire.

Somalia is our most perplexing challenge, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said in an interview with The Associated Press 26 February 2017. The United States is trying to take a look at Somalia from a fresh perspective in the way ahead, he said, describing the need to weaken the decade-old al-Shabab insurgency so that the African nation's military forces can defeat it.



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