President Joe Biden of the United States has authorized the deployment of American troops to Somalia, reversing his predecessor Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw nearly all personnel from the country.
On Monday, Reuters and the Associated Press reported on Biden’s decision, citing anonymous Biden administration insiders. The New York Times broke the story first.
The decision was taken in response to a request from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to reports.
According to Reuters, “President Biden has approved a request from the Secretary of Defense to reestablish a persistent US military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabab.”
“This is a repositioning of forces already in theatre who have traveled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis since the previous administration made the decision to withdraw,” the official explained.
Prior to Trump’s pullout, the US had around 700 troops in Somalia engaged on assisting local forces in defeating al-Shabab.
According to the New York Times, a US official said the decision was made in early May and that no more than 450 troops would be sent.
According to Reuters, the number would be less than 500.
The action comes amid rising fears about al-Shabab, the country’s al-Qaeda-linked armed group.
In recent months, the organization has made territorial advances against Somalia’s federal government, with the goal of overthrowing the government and establishing its own control in the nation.
It undid the successes of African Union forces who had previously forced armed militants into the country’s most remote districts.
The deployment decision came after Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the former president of Somalia from 2012 to 2017, was declared the winner of a long-running election on Sunday.
Al-Shabab often bombs Mogadishu and other Somali cities as part of its campaign against the country’s central government.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that since Trump ordered American troops out during his final days in office in 2021, US military commanders have been deploying US personnel into Somalia for short rotations.
Officials at the Pentagon, however, did not consider the rotations to be an “effective long-term strategy” and had been considering recommending redeployment for some time.
The US military has also conducted strikes in the country on occasion and has troops stationed in surrounding countries.
Since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has experienced warfare and clan wars with no strong central government.
Beyond the capital and the African Union contingent guarding an Iraq-style “Green Zone,” the government has little power.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES