Mattis: US has a role to play in fight against terrorrists in Somalia

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs reporters aboard his aircraft on its flight back to Washington, D.C., following the secretary’s participation in a conference on Somalia in London, May 11, 2017. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is hopeful for renewed peace in Somalia, following a Somali-based conference in London yesterday- and he thinks the US has a role to play in the stabilization of the war-torn country.

Aboard his DC-bound aircraft, Mattis addressed reporters and expressed that he came away from the conference “heartened.”

Mattis said that the US has a large role to play in the eradication of al-Shabaab, one of the biggest resistance issues in the redevelopment and rebuilding of Somalia.

“So, we were working on how the future looks and what nations could commit what to what and get the framework right,” Mattis said. “It includes on the security side both a continued maturation of their security forces in the defenses against al-Shabaab, but it also includes a reconciliation program designed to pull the fence-sitters and the middle-of-the-roaders away from al-Shabaab. It’s very well put together.”

Al-Shabaab -which at one time included the Alabama-born Omar Shafik Hammami within its ranks- has been a thorn in the side of the Somalia as the country attempts to regain stability.

Mattis said that Somalia has a solid program to get itself back on its feet, but requires international support in order for the new leadership to get the country on track.

“There is certainly an attitude of renewed hope based on the election of what appears to be a very good leader in terms of understanding the need for military security, but as well economic efforts, and certainly reconciliation is going to have to mark this way forward, as well,” he said.

According to the Department of Defense, Mattis acknowledged the African union Mission in Somalia has done the best they can in a difficult position.

“For years, AMISOM and the Somali soldiers have fought against a pretty tough enemy that has sworn allegiance … to al-Qaida,” Mattis said. “It’s an enemy that’s got to be fought and the people have to be defended.”

The American military has faced losses in recent times in Somalia, with 38-year-old US Navy SEAL SCPO Kyle Milliken being killed last Friday while supporting Somali Army forces fighting al-Shabaab troops. During the operation, American forces were travelling with Somali troops when they came under fire.

Chief Milliken was a member of an “advise, assist and accompany” team pooled from the SEAL’s DEVGRU team.

During the conference, Mattis took an opportunity to talk with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, having an “honest, transparent and helpful” discussion about NATO issues that have a direct impact on Turkish security.

According to Mattis, Turkey is committed to the anti-Islamic State campaign “just like the rest of NATO and the 68 nations that are aligned against ISIS, and that includes in particular the campaign against the enemy’s…self-proclaimed caliphate in Raqqa.”

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