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US reestablishes troop presence in Somalia to help fight Al-Shabaab

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A house destroyed when Al-Shabaab militants attacked a police station on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia in February 2022. AFP

US reestablishes troop presence in Somalia to help fight Al-Shabaab

President Joe Biden has ordered the reestablishment of a US troop presence in Somalia to help local authorities combat the Al-Shabaab militant group, a senior American official told reporters on May 16.

The move reverses an order from Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who in late 2020 pulled nearly all US forces from the East African nation as he sought to wind down US military engagements abroad during his final weeks in office.

Biden “approved a request from the Defence Department to reposition US forces in East Africa in order to reestablish a small persistent US military presence in Somalia,” the official said.

Fewer than 500 troops will be involved, the official said, adding that it will “take a little bit of time to reach that” level in Somalia.

That is slightly smaller than the original footprint of 750 US soldiers who spent years in the country conducting operations against Al-Shabaab, but were then removed under Trump and rebased in neighbouring countries Kenya and Djibouti.

In December 2020, just before he left office, Trump directed the withdrawal from Somalia “against the advice of senior US military leadership”, the official said.

“Since then Al-Shabaab . . . has unfortunately only grown stronger,” the official added.

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