By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
WASHINGTON — The outgoing commander of U.S. Africa Command said it is “inevitable” that the U.S. forces in Somalia will take casualties, chalking it up to fortunes of war and an enemy determined to kill Americans.
“Even if you do everything right” there will be casualties, Gen. Stephen Townsend said, during a morning briefing with the Defense Writers Group. “These are combat zones where there is a determined enemy.. who would like to kill Americans.”
Then President Trump ordered U.S. forces out of Somalia, with the 900 troops relocating to nearby nations. President Biden approved their return this spring.
Somalia’s Al Qaeda affiliate — al-Shabaab — has gotten “bigger, stronger, and bolder” in the last eighteen months during U.S. withdrawal from the country, Townsend said.
He said that a concerted push by al-Shabab to expand from Somalia into Ethiopia appears to have been “largely contained,” though it is extremely likely it is already planning more such attacks in the coming months.
Townsend has led U.S. Africa Command since July 26, 2019. He is to leave command on August 9 and is to retire in a few months after more than 40 years of military service. President Biden in June nominated Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley to be the next commander.
Townsend said Somalia is just one of the locations in Africa where the underfunded Africa Command faces such dangers and challenges. He said the continent now is the bastion of terrorism in the world, supplanting Afghanistan or the Middle East.
“The central focus on terrorism in the world today is on the African continent,” he said.
He lamented on how U.S. Africa Command must operate on an “economy of force” mission since “we are not going to get a lot of resources.” He called the Command “a posture limited theater.”
Beyond terrorism, Africa Command also must deal with China’s inroads, which is using economic force and a “whole-of-government way” to snare resources and “to increase their access and influence on the continent” and is driving to establish more military bases on the continent.
Russia is a constant thorn, with its use of the Wagner mercenary group and its “self-interest, extractive way,” Townsend said. “I don’t see that Wagner has any good intentions to help the people of Africa. They’re there to make a profit. And to prop up dictators.’
At one point, a Russian TASS reporter asked Townsend, “What exactly is your beef with the Russians and Chinese in Africa?”
Asked who the best foreign partners he worked with Townsend did not hesitate to say the Syrian Democratic Force in northern Syria. “That force is your dream partner,” he said.
He also said that the “Ukrainians are also an ideal partner” giving a great “return on investment.”
On the African continent, Townsend said “we see partners all along that spectrum.” Of those, he singled out the Niger military, who he said is “very capable and they are willing,” adding that it is “hard to build will.”