WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden signed an order Monday to redeploy hundreds of US troops to Somalia. to counter the Islamic extremist rebel group al-ShababiUS military leaders said an effort was hampered by President Donald Trump’s late decision To withdraw the army from the country.
US troops will be moved from elsewhere in Africa to provide training and other support to Somali forces in the fight against al-Shabaab, considered the largest and wealthiest ally of the al-Qaeda extremist organization.
It is a reminder that America is engaged in a protracted fight against Islamic extremists around the world, even as the war in Ukraine and efforts in other matters have been eclipsed.
Decision to redeploy the army to SomaliaNational Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson announced the redeployment, saying it intended to “maximize the security and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more efficient support to our partners”, rather than rotating them in and out. Is.
US forces in Somalia will total “less than 500” and are not being sent to engage in direct combat, according to a senior Biden administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reporters on the rationale behind the decision. had spoken.
Instead, the troops will work with Somali forces and provide protection to State Department and US Agency for International Development personnel as they work with the government to help them emerge from the turmoil, the official said.
Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of about 700 troops from Somalia at the end of his term in January 2021, an extension of a broader policy of pulling out America referred to as the “endless war” around the world.
But military leaders said that came at a cost, wasting time, money and speed as soldiers had to move in and out of the country.
The head of US Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, told Congress in March that the rotations, which he called “come to work,” were not efficient or effective and put American troops at greater risk.
“In my view, we are moving forward in the best place. We can backtrack,” Townsend told the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requested the deployment to “reestablish a persistent US military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab, which has grown in strength and poses a greater threat.” An administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of the White House announcement.
Biden’s decision to sign the order was first reported by The New York Times, which also noted that the president had made a Pentagon request for permanent authority to target nearly a dozen suspected leaders of al-Shabaab. was approved.
The group has killed more than a dozen Americans in East Africa, including three attacks on a base used by US counter-terrorism forces in January 2020. in Kenya. Later that year, the US charged a Kenyan Joe was taking flying lessons in the Philippines while planning a 9/11-style hijacking attack on behalf of al-Shabaab.
The rebel group has made territorial gains against Somalia’s federal government in recent months, reversing the gains of African Union peacekeepers who once pushed terrorists into the country’s remote areas.
Word of the deployment decision came after Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, who served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017, was announced on Sunday as the winner of a lengthy election.
Somalia’s fall began in 1991 when warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barres And then turned on another one. Years of conflict and al-Shabaab attacks, along with famine, have shattered the country that has a long, strategic coastline bordered by the Indian Ocean.
US troops stationed there in 1992 on a peacekeeping mission to prevent a national famine that lasted until the 1994 withdrawal – nearly five months after the humiliating “Black Hawk Down” debacle. When Somali militiamen shot down two American helicopters in late 1993; 18 soldiers were killed in the crash and subsequent rescue effort.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.