President Biden signed an order Monday to redeploy hundreds of US troops to Somalia to counter the Islamic extremist rebel group al-Shabab, an effort that American military leaders said had been hampered by Donald Trump's late-term decision to withdraw forces from the country. US troops will be repositioned from elsewhere in Africa to train and provide other support to Somali forces in their fight against al-Shabab, which is considered the largest and wealthiest affiliate of the al-Qaeida extremist organization, the AP reports.
The decision to station forces again in Somalia, rather than rotate them in and out, is intended "to maximize the safety and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more efficient support to our partners," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in announcing the redeployment. US forces in Somalia will total "under 500" and are not being sent to engage in direct combat, according to a senior Biden administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to brief journalists on the rationale behind the decision.
Instead, the troops will work with Somali forces and provide security to personnel from the State Department and the US Agency for International Development as they work with the government to emerge from years of turmoil, the official said. Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of approximately 700 troops from Somalia at the end of his term in Jan. 2021, an extension of a broader policy of seeking to pull the US out of what he called "endless wars" around the world. But military leaders said that came at a cost, wasting time, money, and momentum as troops had to rotate in and out of the country. Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of US Africa Command, told Congress in March that the rotations, which he called "commuting to work," were not efficient or effective and put American troops at greater risk.
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