President Joe Biden is reportedly preparing to send military forces to Somalia again, in a reversal of former President Trump’s withdrawal toward the end of his four-year term.
Biden and his military advisors reportedly intend for the special operations troops to enter Somalia, this time to maintain a sense of law and order as al-Qaeda continues to occupy the country, according to The New York Times,
This decision seems to continue the Biden administration’s reputation of reversing Trump’s policies, regardless of whether such policies were effective and useful for the United States or not.
Trump withdrew nearly all 700 troops that were stationed in Somalia before ending his presidential term, in an effort to end “forever wars,” leaving the Middle East in a state of relative peace at the time he left public office. Biden is said to be sending several hundred troops back, according to The Times which cited “four officials familiar with the matter.”
The president agreed with the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who advised that the United States military establish once again a steady, reliable presence in Somalia to better engage the combat challenges against Al-Shabab, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that has become more organized and stronger in recent months, increasing their threat potential, a senior administration official told The Hill.
“This is a repositioning of forces already in the theater who have traveled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis since the previous administration made the decision to withdraw in January 2021,” the official said.
It is not yet clear the number of U.S. troops that would travel to Somalia or the length of time they will be there, but The Times reported that Biden had signed off on the proposal arranged by the Pentagon in early May.
Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, confirmed the Pentagon’s strategy, claiming the move would provide an opportunity to engage in “a more effective fight against Al-Shabab.”
“The decision to reintroduce a persistent presence was made to maximize the safety and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more efficient support to our partners,” she continued. The plan was originally developed in March.
“Ms. Watson did not indicate the number of troops the military would deploy. But two people familiar with the matter said the figure would be capped at around 450. That will replace a system in which the U.S. troops training and advising Somali and African Union forces have made short stays since Mr. Trump issued what Ms. Watson described as a ‘precipitous decision to withdraw,'” The Times reported.
Earlier this year, senior intelligence said there had been an increase in potentially dangerous activities from the terrorist organization; such activities continued to draw the Pentagon’s attention, reportedly because there was no pressure on them to subdue their forces or efforts or organization.
A senior administration official contrasted the current situation with that of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling the newspaper that they are markedly different as ” the Taliban have not expressed an intention of attacking the United States, and other militant groups in Afghanistan do not control significant enclaves of territory from which to operate and plan.”
Thus, according to the official, Biden’s administration assessed that it was better to more directly engage in Somalia, maintaining a “very carefully cabined presence on the ground to be able to work with our partners,” while “disrupting a few Shabab leaders who are deemed a direct peril to ‘us, and our interests and our allies,'” The Times noted.
Biden’s military strategy in Somalia will reportedly attempt to make reductions to possible and potential threatening actions from the organization, hoping to minimize its ability to orchestrate complex military operations.
“Al Shabab remains Al Qaeda’s largest, wealthiest and most deadly affiliate, responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents, including Americans,” Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, said in a visit to Somalia in February. “Disrupting Al Shabab’s malign intent requires leadership from Somalis and continued support from Djibouti, Kenya, the U.S. and other members of the international community.”
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