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US AFRICOM: Al Shabaab grew partly because political friction and dysfunction

WASHINGTON (SD) – Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the African Union Mission in Africa (AFRICOM), told the VOA, said al-Shabaab’s threat increased over the past 12 months.

“I believe that the threat of al-Shabab has increased over about the last eight to 12 months or so, the threat of al-Shabab has increased. I think COVID certainly had an effect, but emerging out of COVID, I think the threat has gone up.” Said the AFRICOM Commander.

Adding “And as you know, the last administration had us reposition U.S. forces largely out of Somalia where we are now we still have the same tasks to do there, to disrupt al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s largest, wealthiest and most kinetically active arm in the world, and they are a threat to the United States and the American people by their own aspiration. Their leadership charge their followers to attack Americans wherever they find them. So I think we ought to take that very seriously, and we are. I think that threat is growing because of the lack of counterterrorism pressure on al-Shabab over the last year That’s coming from a lot of factors. One of them is inactivity from AMISOM. Another one is because of COVID and other things.”

The Commander also said the threat increase had to do with Somalia’s current political situation and the effectiveness of the African Union troops AMISOM.

“Another one is political friction and dysfunction. As you know, their president’s term expired. … There’s a lot of friction to try to get a new head of state elected. And so I think all of that is affecting the fight against al-Shabab, and our own our own posture is also calculates into that. So I think the threat of al-Shabab is growing. And if increased pressure is not applied to al-Shabab, I’m concerned that there’s going to be a significant al-Shabab attack. We’ve seen just suicide bombs going off in Mogadishu over the last two weeks to include one fairly large vehicle-borne IED, so I think they’re expanding and they’re growing.” Gen. Stephen Townsend explained.

The AFRICOM commander comes at a time when a wide swath of Somalia is currently under al-Shabaab’s control, giving it the ability to restructure and form a powerful parallel government.

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