Flashpoints

Al-Shabab warns US partner forces in Africa that America will abandon them like it did Syrian Kurds

Al-Shabab, a terrorist group in East Africa with ties to al-Qaida, warned African forces partnering with U.S. troops that America will abandon them like it did the Syrian Kurds, according to a message posted by the terror group following its attack against Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya.

The terror group launched an attack Jan. 5 on Manda Bay Airfield killing U.S. Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., of Illinois, and two contractors. Shabab also destroyed a number of contractor-operated civilian aircraft.

Al-Shabab said in a message that the raid on Camp Simba should “serve as a stern warning” for African forces that “when the situation gets difficult” American troops will “abandon you" just as they did with the Syrian YPG after entangling them in an “unwinnable war.”

The YPG, or the People’s Protection Units, is a Kurdish faction that fights under the larger umbrella of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey believes the YPG is a terrorist organization and launched a military operation in northern Syria to combat the group, just days after President Donald Trump ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from the area near Syria’s border with Turkey.

There are still roughly 500-600 U.S. troops in Syria.

Shabab warned African forces on the continent that after U.S. troops abandon them nothing will save them from the “wrath of the Mujahideen."

Analysts and national security exerts have argued that Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria could have major repercussions and complicate already stressed relationships with other U.S. partner forces across the globe.

Al-Shabab also detailed in its post that its fighters had to move long distances past “poorly defended” Kenyan military bases during its mission to attack the Manda Bay base.

In a recent video, the group’s leadership said the Kenya raid was a follow-up attack to the September strike against the Baledogle airfield in Somalia.

Drones are known to operate from the commando outpost at Baledogle, and American commandos are training a Somali special operations unit at the airfield.

The attack ended following U.S. airstrikes and no U.S. or partner forces were injured during the brazen assault on the Somali commando camp.

Following the attack in Kenya, the military deployed the U.S. Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force to help bolster security at the base.

The size of the EARF security detail is unknown.

Air Force Col. Christopher Karns, the spokesman for AFRICOM, told Military Times that a typical response force is 50-100 U.S. troops.

“But due to force protection and operational security reasons we don’t pinpoint exact numbers. It can be adjusted based on mission and need,” Karns said.

AFRICOM officials including U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Turello, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, visited Camp Simba and Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya on Thursday.

“I immediately sent members of my command team to hear directly from our troops and commanders on the ground about the details of the attack by al-Shabaab,” AFRICOM Commander U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said in an AFRICOM news release. “I want ground truth to assess the situation and hear from the troops to ensure they have what they need to accomplish their mission.”

Turello met with the officer who is conducting an investigation into the attack at the request of AFRICOM Commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend.

Al-Shabab operates primarily in Somalia, but is known to carry out attacks across East Africa. U.S. forces launched nearly 60 airstrikes in 2019 against Shabab militants in Somalia.

A UN report detailed that the terrorist group has sought refuge in urban centers to mitigate the threat of American air power.

Officials with AFRICOM estimate there are 5,000 to 7,000 Shabab militants.

“Additionally, Al-Shabaab controls roughly 20 percent of Somalia, primarily in southern Somalia where they have maintained a historical presence,” AFRICOM previously told Military Times.

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