US to send up to 500 soldiers to train Somalia

US to send up to 500 soldiers to train Somalia

The US will send up to 500 soldiers back to Somalia to train the country's army to combat the threat posed by al-Shabaab militants.

The White House insists that the move, deepening the US military commitment in an intractable foreign conflict, did not contradict Joe Biden's policy of disengaging from the wars that underlay the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The decision does not affect deployments in the region, but replaces a rotating deployment with a persistent presence longer tours by the same special forces soldiers, officials said on Monday. They claimed that the deployment should not be called permanent, as that implied that the soldiers would be there forever.

The move marks a reverse of Donald Trump's decision to withdraw 750 US troops who had been stationed in Somalia in the last few weeks of his presidency. A senior administration official called Trump's decision irrational and abrupt. He said it was an abrupt and sudden transition to a rotational presence. Al Qaeda's largest, wealthiest and deadliest affiliate in Somalia has only grown stronger since then, according to al-Shabaab. It has increased the tempo of its attacks, including against US personnel. The US military said that having a rotational presence had increased security risks for US troops as they moved in and out of the country, and disrupted the training of Somali forces by constantly changing the US trainers.

The deployment would be fewer than 500 soldiers, according to the White House. The goal is to increase the capacity of Somali forces to disrupt al-Shabaab so that the group can't plot attacks against the US, such as the January 2020 assault on the American airbase in Manda Bay in Kenya.

A Kenyan national was charged last month with being involved in an al-Shabaab plot to carry out a 9-11 style attack on a US city. He had been trying to learn how to fly large planes in the Philippines when he was arrested.

The Pentagon proposed a change a few months ago, but Biden is reported to have approved the decision earlier this month, but the timing of the announcement was determined by the re-election of the country s parliament on Sunday by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, ending months of uncertainty.

The term of outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ended in February 2021 without an election. The protracted dispute that followed turned violent and caused divisions at the highest levels of government.

The United Nations, the EU, and diplomats congratulated Mohamud on Monday and expressed hopes that his election would enable political reconciliation.

He served as president from 2012 to 2017 and was familiar with this person, a senior US official said. There is consistency in Somali leadership in terms of support for cooperation on counter-terrorism. The decision was taken time because of Biden's caution about sending US troops into a conflict zone, according to the official.

The official said he takes seriously his duty to ask tough questions and to make sure he understands the full ramifications of the risks as well as the potential benefits. Once he had his questions answered, he was comfortable with approving this proposal from the secretary of defence.