The US announced a $9 million military assistance package to the Somali government based in Mogadishu. The Joe Biden administration hopes the Somali military will use the weapons against al-Shabaab.
A statement by US Africa Command on Sunday said the package includes heavy weapons and other equipment. “Heavy weapons, equipment included support and construction vehicles, explosive ordinance disposal kits, medical supplies, and maintenance equipment for vehicles and weapons.”
AFRICOM explained the weapons are already in the hands of the Somali military. “Most of the supplies are already on their way to Hishabelle and Galmudug States to support SNA troops,” the press release stated.
Somali Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur claimed Mogabishu was in desperate need of the weapons. “This support comes at a critical time for our forces as we boost their capabilities to combat al-Shabaab,” he said.
Mogadishu only controls a small portion of the internationally recognized borders of Somalia. The main target for the government is the insurgent group, al-Shabaab, which controls much of the country’s southern regions.
The US claims al-Shabaab is a terrorist group that can be targeted under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. However, al-Shabaab rose to power after Washington pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia in 2006. The group has limited its military actions to the Horn of Africa and has not presented a threat to the US homeland.
The State Department’s human rights report on Somalia found substantial government abuses, including those committed by its military. “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, by government forces; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious abuses in a conflict, including reportedly unlawful or widespread civilian harm, enforced disappearances or abductions, torture and physical abuses or punishment, and unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers…” the report states.
In August 2017, a Somali military operation supported by the US killed ten civilians. Ammunition casings found at the site of the massacre suggest American forces also fired on the civilians. In October, a man from that village carried out a suicide bombing that killed over 600 in Mogadishu. The Guardian identified the massacre as the likely motivation for the attack.
In the first year of President Joe Biden’s administration, the White House rolled back Donald Trump’s drone war in Somalia. However, in 2022, Biden began a return to the Trump-era by increasing strikes in the country by at least 30%. The Biden White House additionally reversed one of Trump’s final policy decisions by redeploying 500 troops to Somalia earlier in 2022.