The United States (US) recently reopened its embassy in Somalia after 28 years, citing security improvements in the East African nation blighted by conflict for many years.

The announcement came days after a US military base about 90km outside Mogadishu and an EU envoy in the capital were attacked by Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

“It is a significant and historic day that reflects Somalia’s progress in recent years,” US Ambassador to Somalia, Donald Yamamoto said at the official opening.

President Trump’s administration has vastly increased aid and military engagement in Somalia since assuming office in 2017, making it a priority in its global effort to defeat Islamist terrorism and increasing the use of airstrikes and drones to combat militants.

This surge has been accompanied by a change in the classification of parts of Somalia to “areas of active hostilities”, which means commanders don’t need high-level approval to conduct strikes.

“Encouraged and supported by the Federal Government of Somalia, precision airstrikes support our partner security forces’ efforts to protect the Somali people from terrorism,” the US military told the BBC.

The US military has already conducted more airstrikes in 2019 than in any previous year.

However, while it’s difficult to assess the true impact of airstrikes, experts, former officials and an analysis of local media reporting suggest that the group’s hold on its territory remains strong.

There is also a concern that civilians are being caught up in the conflict.

Al-Shabab still retains control over large areas of rural Somalia and continues to mount attacks in urban centres.

Most of these have occurred in Mogadishu and the Lower Shabelle region close to the capital.

BBC NEWS