US sends dozens of troops to Somalia, 1st time in decades

According to the U.S. Africa Command on Friday April 14, 2017, the U.S. military is sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia to train Somali soldiers in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades.

"United States Africa Command will conduct various security cooperation and/or security force assistance events in Somalia in order to assist our allies and partners", Patrick Barnes, a spokesman for Africa Command, told VOA on April 13.

Barned added that the troops had arrived in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on April 2 from the Fort Campbell army base in the USA state of Kentucky, and were carrying out a train-and-equip mission expected to continue until the end of September. The group has been staging numerous attacks in Somalia in an attempt to create an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.

Stars and Stripes reported the 101st deployment was at the request of the Somali military.

Deploying troops to Somalia is the latest sign of a more interventionist approach from a candidate who used the election campaign to criticise his predecessors for becoming bogged down in foreign wars.

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"It gives them the tools to help themselves", DeLeon said in an interview with VOA. Seeking to support that effort, the Pentagon under former President Barack Obama stepped up stealth drone attacks against suspected al-Shabab leaders, initially without public acknowledgment. Eighteen Americans were killed in the incident, memorialized in Black Hawk Down, prompting then president Bill Clinton to order a USA withdrawal.

A report in The New American back in 2015 quoted information from the online journal Foreign Policy (FP) exposing an expanding USA military presence in Somalia, including not only drone bases but boots on the ground.

But Africa Command made it clear that there was no link between the two.

Somalia has recently ranked up its battle against al-Shabaab by inducing more soft power programmes in their counter-terrorist policy to deter the youth from joining the militant group as well as ramping up their military capabilities. AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, in turn, confirmed that a "small number" of US personnel within AFRICOM's area of responsibility are special operations forces, but declined to comment on the size or location of their units. "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare".

  • Delia Davidson