AFRICOM commander heads to Somalia as airstrikes against violent extremists rise

U.S. Africa Command commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend is in Somalia to visit U.S. troops and other global leaders — a move that comes amid a slight uptick in airstrikes against violent extremists in Somalia this year.

“The purpose of my engagements is to meet with important African, international and U.S. key leaders, to visit our troops and to assess the progress of our campaign in East Africa and against al-Shabaab,” Townsend, who had headed the command since July, said in a statement.

Townsend is slated to visit Somali President Mohamed Abdullah Farmaajo on Nov. 5, according to AFRICOM. He visited Djibouti on Monday.

Townsend claimed that violent extremist groups, including al-Shabab, an al-Qaida offshoot, and ISIS-Somalia, aim to target the U.S., and pose a threat to U.S. interests and African partners.

“Due to persistent pressure our campaign puts on al-Shabaab and ISIS, we believe they lack the actual capability to attack our homeland but we must stay vigilant and keep pressing them,” Townsend said.