What the counterterrorism campaign in Somalia says about U.S. involvement in ‘Forever Wars’

Reynolds Sandbox
The Reynolds Sandbox
3 min readMar 9


US Army troops return from overseas deployment to Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX. Photo by Hannah Truby

Last month, the U.S. military began advising Somalia soldiers in their counterterrorism efforts. This follows a redeployment of U.S. troops under the Biden Administration, after the previous administration of former President Donald Trump withdrew their military presence from the volatile African country in 2021.

What does this mean for future American intervention?

America’s involvement with counterterrorism efforts finds its roots in the early 2000s — following the attacks of 9/11, when the Bush administration launched a global War on Terror.

This put U.S. forces into a series of “Forever Wars”, most notably with US troops in Afghanistan for over 20 years. When the last of the troops pulled out with Biden as president in 2021, many thought America’s engagement with “forever wars” had ended. However, global military ties are not so simple, or easy to break, and the current reengagement in Somalia displays this.

Below is a map of current terrorist activity (focusing on the Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorist groups) around the world, and their implications for the US.


In 2007, the U.S. military began supporting Somalia’s beleaguered government in their counterterrorism movement as a part of the War on Terror, and remained present until early 2021, when President Trump ordered the majority of American troops home.

However, the Somalian Islamic terrorist group Al Shabab has only risen in power since, now considered the deadliest of Al Qaeda’s global branches.

In 2022, President Biden restored 450 troops to advise Somalian soldiers fighting against the terrorist insurgency. In response to an attack earlier this year, Somali officials asked for more American firepower and drone strikes, a request the Biden administration is considering.

Some Americans say a presence in foreign countries is an important component of peace at home, and helps maintain healthy global partnerships. At the same time, there are those who disagree, and argue U.S. involvement in these conflicts is too costly, and never seems to make a difference, or sometimes even makes it worse.

Whether one agrees on international intervention or not, the conflict in Somalia sends a reminder to the U.S. : “forever wars” are indeed forever, and as long as terrorists are fighting, the United States will too.

Somalia is just one example of how the American military will ultimately arrive in — or return to — a region with a notable terrorist presence. The question isn’t whether the U.S. should intervene or not, but how it will do so.

Explainer reporting by Hannah Truby shared with the Reynolds Sandbox



Reynolds Sandbox
The Reynolds Sandbox

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