Biden to redeploy up to 500 troops to Somalia
President Biden will redeploy up to 500 U.S. troops in East Africa to Somalia as the administration looks to reestablish a small presence in the country to counter al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
The troops, who are being repositioned from neighboring countries, will help establish a “small, persistent U.S. military presence in Somalia,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.
The move, which was first reported by The New York Times, reverses the withdrawal of forces from Somalia that former President Trump ordered in December 2020.
The U.S. had 750 troops stationed in Somalia at the time, and Trump framed the decision as part of his effort to end “forever wars.” Those troops had been repositioned to neighboring countries and would move in and out to try to help with counterterrorism operations.
Al-Shabaab has grown to be al Qaeda’s largest and best-financed global affiliate, the senior administration official told reporters.
Trump’s decision to withdraw only allowed the group to grow stronger, and it has increased the tempo of its attacks in the region, including on U.S. personnel.
Further, having U.S. forces rotate through Somalia created a “very real force protection risk,” the official said. It also created efficiency challenges by transporting and unpacking equipment back and forth when operators could have been working.
“This is a step that rationalizes what was essentially an irrational arrangement that we inherited,” the official said.
The move won’t reestablish the full U.S. military presence prior to the withdrawal and won’t “significantly change” the Pentagon’s overall posture and resource dedication in East Africa, the official said.
The official acknowledged that the U.S. military presence is only part of the administration’s approach to Somalia, which also includes diplomacy, security assistance and stabilization programming to counter al-Shabaab.
“Restoring and persistent U.S. military presence will help to increase the security and the freedom of movement for other personnel such as State Department and USAID [United States Agency for International Development] colleagues as they conduct critical diplomatic and development missions,” they said.