Update and Assessment: March 16, 2016
By The Editors
March 16, 2016
- The United States intervened militarily in Somalia twice in three days, signaling a step-change in the U.S. response to the al Shabaab threat reflective of inflections in al Shabaab’s own capabilities and tactics. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook described the March 5 U.S. airstrikes against an al Shabaab training camp as targeting a group of fighters who “posed an imminent threat to the U.S.” and peacekeeping forces in Somalia. U.S. special operations troops provided helicopter transports and acted as advisers during a Somali special operations raid on an al Shabaab camp at Awdheegle town in the Lower Shabelle region that targeted at least one high-value target.
- Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is continuing a calibrated campaign to impose costs for Western presence in the region and provoke a reduction in French force posture while avoiding Western retaliation. AQIM gunmen stormed three resort hotels in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, killing at least 16 people. French military resources are already stretched, and it is unlikely that France will be able to devote more resources to counter AQIM’s growth. The Grand Bassam attack and the January 2016 attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso indicate that AQIM and its affiliates have expanded their operational zones to the south by a significant measure.
- Coalition-backed forces broke through the western frontline in Taiz city, the first major gain in the fight for control of Yemen’s third-largest city. Taiz, the heart of Yemen’s 2011 revolution, is critical terrain in the country and its population is split between the al Houthi-Saleh faction and the coalition-backed faction. An al Houthi-Saleh defeat in Taiz would be a significant blow, but it is not clear that it would be the decisive victory needed to bring all parties to the table to negotiate a settlement to the conflict. [Sign up to receive CTP’s Yemen Crisis Situation Reports by email.]