The United States’ war on terror is not slowing down. With more boots on the ground in Africa this past year, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, acknowledged the increase in troops and associated it with the escalating conflict in Somalia at a recent House Armed Services Committee meeting.
The total number of troops grew from 6,000 in 2017, according to AFRICOM, to nearly 7,500, including 1,000 contractors, as of today. Waldhauser said that the “bulk of U.S. forces – more than 4,000 service members – centered on the East African region,” Vice News reported. The “bulk,” which doubled in troops last year in Somalia, is concentrated in East Africa, mainly Djibounti, Kenya and Somalia, and in the western part of the continent. Their mission is focused on advising and supporting Somali troops in the field, officials said, “fighting violent extremist groups like ISIS affiliates in Sahel, Boko Haram, al_Shabaab, and al Qaida” throughout the continent.
While American forces have increased, so have the number of airstrikes. The U.S.’ airstrikes “rose from 14 to 35 in 2017,” Vice News reported according to data from the Bureau of Investigation Journalism.
At the House Armed Services Committee, Waldhauser was questioned whether the U.S. was at war in Somalia.
“Functionally, I would argue that we are at war in Somalia, is that an accurate reading of the situation there?,” Rep. Beto O’Rourke from Texas said.
But Waldhauser rebutted O’Rourke’s comment.
“Congressman, I would say it’s an accurate reading,” Waldhauser said. “I wouldn’t characterize that we’re at war. It’s specifically designed for us not to own that.”
Aside from the growing Somalia mission with a large military presence, an annual report confirms the U.S. is presently involved in joint missions in 13 different nations around the world.