There are now 500 U.S. troops in Somalia, where the military has carried out daily airstrikes in the past week, but the Department of Defense refuses to call it a buildup.
“I would not associate that with a buildup, as you’re calling it,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon on Nov. 16. “I think it’s just the flow of forces in and out as different organizations come in that might be sized a little differently.”
McKenzie said the boost in attacks was simply a matter of hitting targets as they emerge. “So there’s no particular rhythm to it, except that as they become available and as we’re able to process them and vet them, we strike them,” he said.
Still, the sudden surge of servicemembers into Somalia over the past several months and the rapid spike in airstrikes — 28 so far this year — is a reversal from the past, when there were no regular troops in the country and airstrikes were extremely rare.
Driving the U.S.’s recent escalation is a closing window of opportunity as a 20,000-strong coalition of African armies prepares to leave the country after a decade of leading the battle against the al-Qaida-aligned group al-Shabab.
For 10 years, the African Union Mission in Somalia helped ensure relative stability in the war-torn country, pushing al-Shabab out of the capital of Mogadishu and numerous other strongholds. But al-Shabad were never defeated, and with the African Union’s pullout set to begin in coming weeks, the U.S. and its partners have little time to degrade the militants before the multinational fighting force leaves. When the union’s drawdown will be completed in 2020, Somalia’s fledgling army will be in charge of the fight.
There is uncertainty about whether clan-based Somalia, which has a fleeting history of centralized government — can marshal the unity to prevent an al-Shabab resurgence.
“The group would most likely retake some lost territory should AMISOM forces withdraw before the (Somalia National Army) is capable of effective independent operations against the group,” Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command, told Stars and Stripes.
The U.S. military escalation now underway was hinted at earlier this year, when leaders from AMISOM arrived at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart for a meeting of AFRICOM defense chiefs.
“We have very little time, so we need to accelerate this,” said Francisco Madeira, the African Union’s special representative on Somalia, during the April meeting in Stuttgart. “We have to see where we can get resources and training so these people can take over as quickly as possible.”
“I am afraid they (the Somali army) are not ready to take over the security right now,” added Lt. Gen. Osman Nour Soubagleh from Djibouiti. “The time is very short.”
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."