Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the new commander of U.S. Africa Command, visited Somalia on Wednesday and pledged to continue pressuring violent extremists such as al-Shabab.
Townsend is now on his first trip to the African continent since he took charge of AFRICOM July 26. He met with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre in the capital city of Mogadishu, as well as U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto and senior Somali military leadership, AFRICOM said in a release.
AFRICOM said Townsend’s trip allowed him to assess the situation in Somalia, and reinforce AFRICOM’s commitments to the region’s security.
“I am committed to working together and advancing our partnership with Somalia,” Townsend said in the release. “Along with Somalia and other international partners, we will apply continued pressure on violent extremist organizations. This pressure creates conditions and opportunity for further political and economic development.”
Townsend said that Somali forces must keep pushing al-Shabab out of the remaining areas they hold to free Somali people living there, and that degrading the terrorist group’s threat supports the interests of both Somalia and the United States.
“We’re in the business of protecting our country from these threats,” Townsend said. “Degrading the capability of terrorists who operate here makes the entire region safer and prevents its export to other places. This is important work for our country, the Somalis and our allies.”
In a sign of how American involvement in Somalia is increasing, AFRICOM carried out as many airstrikes in the nation in the first seven months of 2019 as it did for the entirety of 2018. According to statistics from AFRICOM last month, the U.S. military carried out its 47th airstrike in Somalia on July 27 to target suspected Islamic State militants in the Golis Mountain region, which is a reputed terrorist hotbed.