America’s Other Endless War: Battling al-Shabaab in Somalia

 | Michael M. Phillips
 01/20/2019 3:08 PM MST
Credit: AMISOM Public Information - Flickr

MOGADISHU, Somalia—The U.S. commandos careened between grief and anger as Alex Conrad’s flag-draped coffin was hoisted onto the cargo plane.

Al-Shabaab militants allied with al Qaeda had killed Staff Sgt. Conrad at a rudimentary outpost that American Green Berets built with help of the Somali army. Now, just as Sgt. Conrad’s comrades were sending him on his final trip home, they were grappling with more bad news. The Somali army had abandoned the outpost hours after the sergeant died.

The Green Beret commander frantically called a senior Somali official.

“We lost lives there,” the Green Beret said. “It’s not acceptable to give it back.”

America’s war against al-Shabaab is one of the longest-running conflicts in U.S. history, simmering quietly for a dozen years in the desert landscape of the Horn of Africa. It has proven a frustrating mission with wins but no victory, setbacks but no defeat.