US President Joe Biden has authorised the redeployment of fewer than 500 American troops into Somalia, US officials said on Monday, after Donald Trump ordered their withdrawal during his presidency.
Prior to Trump’s withdrawal, the United States had about 700 troops in Somalia focused on helping local forces defeat the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency.
“President Biden has approved a request from the Secretary of Defense to re-establish a persent US military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al Shabaab,” a senior adminration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.
“This is a repositioning of forces already in theatre who have traveled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis since the previous adminration made the decision to withdraw,” the official added.
The revamped troop presence will include fewer than 500 US troops, another U.S. official said.
The official said the US policy begun under Trump of rotating troops in and out had created a “force protection risk” and that Biden “made the decision to increase the safety and effectiveness of our special operators.”
Al Shabaab is seeking to topple the government and establish its own rule in Somalia based on its strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
The insurgent group frequently carries out bombings in Mogadishu and elsewhere as part of its war against the Horn of Africa country’s central government.
Somalia has endured conflict and clan battles with no strong central government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The government has little control beyond the capital and the African Union contingent guards in an Iraq-style “Green Zone.”
While the United States did not have troops in Somalia since Trump ordered their withdrawal in December 2020, the military has occasionally carried out strikes in the country and has had troops in near countries.