The ongoing Global War on Terrorism has intensified, with the United States having conducted two unprecedented drone strikes against ISIS in Somalia on November 3.
According to the Atlantic Council Africa Center, these strikes targeted militants in the Galaga district of the semi-autonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia. A group of al-Shabaab militants led by Abdulqadir Mumin pledged allegiance to ISIS’ self-proclaimed caliph in this same region in 2015. Abdulqadir Mumin, born in Somalia, has been under the scrutiny of the U.K.’s intelligence agency, M15. The U.S. Africa Command claims that several terrorists have been killed as a result of these airstrikes.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States, under George W. Bush, declared a “War on Terror.” Although the term was highly criticized for its generalization, the U.S. and its allies have since been waging counterattacks against prominent terrorist groups. As terrorism spreads throughout the world, so too have the redoubled efforts of the war against radical Islamist groups.
As explained by Georgetown history professor Bruce Hoffman, this war has no clear start or end, nor is there a clear battlefield or enemy army to target. This ambiguous war has taken many forms and affected various countries. Following 9/11, the first clear battlefields were in Afghanistan and Iraq. The mission, as it seemed to most Americans, was to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Ten years after 9/11, the Obama administration officially began what some have named “The Forever War,” successfully accomplished this primary mission. However, the war did not end with bin Laden’s death, as terrorism still plagues the international community.
Instead, the U.S. replaced the NATO combat mission with “Resolute Support,” intended to continue anti-terrorist operations against al-Qaeda and train Afghan forces. In April, the U.S. dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). In July, America killed ISIL’s new leader, which became the third major terrorist leader slain by the joint forces of the U.S. and Afghanistan. On August 21, President Trump deployed thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
However, ISIS and its combattants are not limited by Afghanistan’s borders. Boko Haram, the terrorist group prominent in West Africa, presents a clear example of groups that pledge allegiance to ISIS and continue to spread terrorism throughout the world. With the spread of terrorism and ISIS’ reach, the War on Terror has began to target countries other than Afghanistan and Iraq, with Mali and Niger being some of the first victims and Somalia following shortly thereafter.
What does this mean for Americans? ISIS’ center of gravity has shifted, and the targets of the War on Terror will too. The airstrikes on Somalia mark a historical turning point in the war, one that signifies the new form that War on Terror has taken. This war with no battlefield has become even less predictable and even more bloody. In fact, on November 3, President Trump guaranteed the American public that “whenever [America is] attacked from this point forward, we will hit [ISIS] ten times harder.” A war that once seemed distant to Americans has picked up speed and intensity. The consequent response from ISIS is hard to gauge but will likely follow, and the world can only patiently wait for it.