Drones operated by the US Special Operations Command (who are also present in Yemen) are expanding to Somalia to fight Islamist fighters (the group called Shabab) in the region, according the New York Times. The Obama administration now sees Al Qaeda ‘affiliates’ (see recent Strategy) as a greater threat than Pakistani militants in the tribal regions, who have been bombarded by hundreds of drone strikes for years.
For several years, the United States has largely been relying on proxy forces in Somalia, including African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, to support Somalia’s fragile government. The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military supplies, including night-vision equipment and four small unarmed drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help combat the rising terror threat in Somalia. During the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2007, clandestine operatives from the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command initiated missions into Somalia from an airstrip in Ethiopia.
American intelligence and military officials warn of increasing operational ties between the Shabab and the Qaeda franchise in Yemen, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or A.Q.A.P. The group orchestrated a plot to blow up a jetliner headed to Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009, and another attempt nearly a year later to destroy cargo planes carrying printer cartridges packed with explosives.