After the US withdrew its troops from war-torn Somalia during Donald Trump’s term, US President Joe Biden on Monday approved the relocation of fewer than 500 US troops to the African country.
Prior to Trump’s withdrawal, the United States had about 700 troops in Somalia focused on helping local forces defeat the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.
“This is a repositioning of forces already in the theater that have traveled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. The exact number of troops was not mentioned at the briefing.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Biden had approved a request from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to “enable a more effective fight against al-Shabab”.
The Pentagon said the troops would not fight directly in combat operations but would work to train, provide advice and equip Somali forces.
“The Secretary (Austin)’s view was that the episodic engagement model was ineffective and increasingly unsustainable,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. The renewed troop presence will include fewer than 500 U.S. troops, another U.S. official said.
Al-Shabab is trying to overthrow the government and establish its own government in Somalia. It has been waging a deadly revolt against the country’s fragile central government for more than a decade.
“It is good news to have US troops in place and efforts to combat terrorism can be resumed,” said Colonel Ahmed Sheikh, former commander of Somalia’s elite force of Danab special forces, trained by US troops. “This is going to be a big boost for the new president – he has a big task ahead of him,” he added.
Former Somali leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud won the presidency again by voting in parliament on Sunday. Somalia has endured conflicts and clan battles without a strong central government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The government has little control over the capital and African Union contingent guards in an “Iraq-style” green zone “.
While the United States has not had troops in Somalia since Trump ordered their withdrawal in December 2020, the military has occasionally carried out attacks in the country and had troops in neighboring countries.
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