Baghdad: As international coalition counterterrorism activities scale down across the Middle East, concerns are mounting about growing threats posed by transnational terrorist groups across several regions in Africa.
Many of these groups have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda or are in some way linked to it.
US troops were sent back to Somalia last year after being pulled out between December 2020 and January 2021.
“Al Shabab has had more freedom to maneuver,” Maj. Gen. Dagvin R.M. Anderson, who commands American Special Operations forces in Africa, said in an interview ....They are “the largest, wealthiest, and most violent Al Qaeda-associated group in the world.” https://t.co/06teVjPSh1— Hussein Sheikh-Ali (@XuseenMacallin) June 16, 2021
Since last August, a Somali commando unit trained, advised and backed by the US has been at the forefront of multiple advances against al-Shabaab.
Wealthiest and most lethal group
Al-Shabaab is considered by the US the “largest, wealthiest and most lethal al-Qaeda affiliate in the world today”, according to a March 2022 statement by the then-commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
“AFRICOM’s mission is to work with partners to counter transnational threats and malign actors, strengthen security forces, and respond to crises to advance US national interests and promote regional security, stability and prosperity,” according to an official website.
An AFRICOM spokesperson noted 8 March in response to questions sent by Al Majalla that: “Al-Shabaab and JNIM, al-Qaida's two largest and most active affiliates, and ISIS [Islamic State] affiliates continue to find safe havens in Africa, posing a trans-regional threat to our African partners as well as a transnational threat to Americans and our partners."
"We see al-Shabaab continuing to attack the Somali people and show growing aspirations to carry out transnational operations,” he added.
U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command visited Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Sept. 16-19, 2019 marking his first trip to West Africa since taking command in July - https://t.co/GWJQxaQSTY pic.twitter.com/6wilXmY4Ef— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) September 20, 2019
“According to the Global Terrorism Index, seven of the 10 countries with the largest increase in terrorism in 2020 were in sub-Saharan Africa, with Burkina Faso suffering a 590 per cent increase,” Gen. Stephen J Townsend noted in his March 2022 statement before the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
A Somali native who has worked in the NGO logistics field for over a decade and who asked that neither his name nor any identifying details be given due to security concerns told Al Majalla in March that al-Shabaab “are getting a lot of money from people simply passively accepting them because they do not have as much corruption as the government”.
However, he added, “no one likes them anymore. It’s not like some years ago, when many people actually believed in them” and that they were working in the best interests of the population.
The Somali expert said that al-Shabaab now controls territory only in the southern part of the country and rural areas and that the current government had introduced several measures in an attempt to reduce their sources of funding.