One of former President Donald Trump’s final acts before leaving office was to order a withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops in Somalia, though, despite his intention to bring the troops home, those service members were merely shifted to other locales in the region and continued to conduct limited operations in the restive East African nation.
That was apparently unacceptable to President Joe Biden, as he has now reversed his predecessor’s move and ordered U.S. troops to return to Somalia to reestablish a “persistent presence” in that country, Breitbart reported.
The stated reason for the return of U.S. boots on the ground in Somalia, which has existed in various states of unrest since 1991, is to more effectively advise and assist Somali military forces fighting against Al-Shabaab, a violent radical Islamist terror organization loosely affiliated with both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
U.S. troops to return following withdrawal in early 2021
Voice of America News reported that, per an unnamed senior Defense official, President Biden had ordered the redeployment of up to 500 U.S. troops in order to “re-establish a small, persistent U.S military presence in Somalia” that would be capable of aiding in the fight against Al-Shabaab and its leaders.
Some U.S. commanders in the region had reportedly complained following Trump’s ordered withdrawal that U.S. forces still engaged in Somalia now had to “commute” to work from neighboring countries when needed instead of already being there on the ground in constant contact and coordination with local allies.
An unnamed White House official told VOA that, since the troop withdrawal in January 2021, Al-Shabaab has “only grown stronger” and “has increased the tempo of its attacks, including against U.S. personnel.” The official further warned that left with space to grow and operate unmolested, the terror group could soon pose a serious threat to American interests both at home and abroad.
Redeployment announced with few actual details
President Biden’s ordering of troops back to Somalia was announced Monday morning during a Pentagon briefing by spokesman John Kirby, who said, “This decision was based on a request from Secretary Austin and included advice from senior commanders, and of course, concern for the safety of our troops who have incurred additional risk by deploying in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis for the past 16 months.”
Kirby was light on details but did insist that U.S. troops would not be directly engaged in combat operations against Al-Shabaab and that the mission hadn’t changed from what it was before, except for the repositioning of the troops for the sake of efficiency and to reduce the risks of constant travel in and out of the country.
He further asserted that there was no specific “tipping point” prior to Biden’s decision to send troops back into Somalia, but rather “was something that we took very seriously through a deliberate policy-making process.” Kirby added, “I wouldn’t point to a specific date on the calendar or a specific event and saying, well that’s it, that is what convinced us. What convinced us was having a reasonable, mature, deliberate policy-making decision process to get to this decision.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also fielded several questions about the redeployment of U.S. troops to Somalia during Monday’s press briefing but, similar to Pentagon spokesman Kirby, she also provided few details and merely repeated back the same generalized talking points he had put forward earlier in the day.
Newly re-elected Somali president a former ally of Obama and Biden
Interestingly enough, Breitbart noted the awfully convenient timing of this order from Biden that came just one day after Somalia held an election amid a government-ordered “security lockdown” and reportedly re-elected as president a man who previously served in that role named Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Mohamud had first served as president of Somalia during the second half of the Obama administration, from 2012 through 2017, and had been an ally of then-President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden.