U.S. President Joe Biden has authorized the redeployment of several hundred American troops into Somalia, two U.S. officials said on Monday, after Donald Trump ordered their withdrawal during his presidency.
Prior to Trump’s withdrawal, the United States had about 700 troops in Somalia focused on helping local forces defeat the al Qaida-linked al Shabab insurgency.
“President Biden has approved a request from the Secretary of Defense to reestablish a persistent U.S. military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al Shabab,” a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.
“This is a repositioning of forces already in theater who have traveled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis since the previous administration made the decision to withdraw,” the official added.
Al Qaeda-linked insurgent group al Shabab is seeking to topple the government and establish its own rule in Somalia based on its strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Al Shabab frequently carries out bombings in Mogadishu and elsewhere as part of its war against the Horn of Africa country’s central government.
Somalia has endured conflict and clan battles with no strong central government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The government has little control beyond the capital and the African Union contingent guards in an Iraq-style “Green Zone.”
While the United States did not have troops in Somalia since Trump ordered their withdrawal in December 2020, the military has occasionally carried out strikes in the country and has had troops in nearby countries.