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The Biden administration announced Monday it is restarting a “persistent” American troop presence in Somalia, citing the threat from al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab and reversing the Trump administration’s withdrawal of American troops from the region.
“The president has authorized the Department of Defense to return a small, persistent U.S. military presence to Somalia,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing Monday
He said the decision was based on a request from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with advice from senior military commanders and was also based on concern for the safety of U.S. troops who have “incurred additional risk” by deploying in and out of Somalia on an “episodic” basis for the past 16 months.
The U.S. military presence in Somalia will have an estimated cap of 500 troops, according to a U.S. official during a background briefing, the New York Post reported.
“We are proud, first and foremost, to be supporting the Somalis’ own efforts to rebuild their own state and we are working closely with other international partners,” the official said.
Kirby said the U.S. troops will continue their missions to train, advise, and assist Somali partner forces to “disrupt, degrade, and monitor” al-Shabaab.
“Our forces are not now, or will they be directly engaged in combat operations,” he said. “The purpose is to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab by local forces.”
He said al-Shabaab has increased its strength and poses a “heightened threat,” but denied there was any specific threat or tipping point that prompted the decision now.
“The secretary’s view was that that episodic engagement model was inefficient and increasingly unsustainable,” he said, adding that by deploying in and out of Somalia, forces lost critical situation awareness needed to detect and disrupt an attack.
Kirby said he did not have additional details on the troop makeup of the persistent presence or when it would begin.
According to the Post, the Biden administration is justifying the persistent presence of U.S. troops in Somalia with the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress after 9/11, which authorized the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda.
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