Pentagon 'stands ready' to assist Kenya in al Shaabab standoff

Al Shabaab, the Somali-based terror group with ties to al Qaeda's Africa cell, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for Sunday's bloody attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi. 

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More than 60 people have been killed and scores more wounded as gunmen from the terror group continue to hold Kenyan forces at bay for the third straight day. 

On Sunday, President Obama called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to express his condolences in the aftermath of the Nairobi attack.

While the Defense Department remains committed to supporting Kenyan counterterrorism operations, Little denied reports that U.S. forces in country are already conducting those missions in Nairobi. 

No American forces from Africa Command or elsewhere have been deployed into Kenya to support local forces "to this point," according to Little. 

A limited contingent of U.S. forces are on the ground in Nairobi, but that "small footprint" of American presence in the capital is limited to security operations for the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Little said. 

However, recent reports citing unnamed State Department officials by The Washington Post claim U.S. forces in Africa are providing "technical support and some equipment assistance" to Kenyan troops. 

American military units, including U.S. special operations forces from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa are stationed at Manda Bay in Kenya, as part of ongoing military training and support operations in the country. 

On Sunday, former Army Vice Chief Gen. Peter Chiarelli is likely drafting target lists for possible strikes against al Shaabab targets in Kenya. 

"They're developing targets ... and refining target lists, trying to fill in any gaps that we possibly have" in intelligence on the group, he said during an interview on ABC's This Week. 

"Intelligence has been gathered and will continue to be gathered to fill in any holes that we have about what happened in this particular attack and what could happen in the future," the former four-star general added. 

That said, Little would not comment on whether U.S. intelligence assets or other forms of military support are being provided to Kenyan security forces.  

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