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US troops to return to Somalia

Friday November 18, 2022

U.S. forces host a range day with the Danab Brigade in Somalia, May 9, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell)

Mogadishu. The United States government is planning to return their troops to Somalia after they were withdrawn in December 2020 by the Trump Administration.

The US Ambassador to Somalia, Larry Andre revealed that President Joe Biden had asked him to give an offer for the return of US troops to President Hassan Sheikh Mahmud immediately after he was elected in May.

“The morning after Hassan Sheikh Mahmud was elected, we had a meeting and I was under instructions from Washington to make an offer from president Biden to President Mahmoud for the return of US troops. This offer was accepted,” said Mr Andre.

However, he said that the details of what their role would be and where they would be based are still being worked out by the Somalia/ Us team that was assembled immediately.

Former President Trump in December 2020 ordered the withdrawal of about 700 troops in Somalia—that were helping train the Danab Brigade, an elite commando force within the SNA with special training on how to degrade Al Shabaab.

This came eleven months after Al Shabaab in January 2020 attacked a joint US/Kenya base, Camp Simba in Manda Bay in Lamu. The attack killed one US Army soldier and two US contract personnel and wounded three additional US personnel and one Kenyan soldier.

Prior to this, the militants were feeling the heat from the US drone attacks that had destroyed a number of their camps and killed some of their top leaders. Mr Andre emphasised that the return of the US troops to Somalia was part of contributions by all international security partners such as the 19,000-strong African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), the UN, Turkey and the UK.

“The process of degrading Al Shabaab must be led by the Somalia administration. That is why we are supporting President Mahmud’s strategy to contrast the religious ideology, go after the militant’s finances and confront them militarily,” said Mr Andre.

He was speaking on October 14 when the US missions in Kenya and Somalia launched a reward of $10 million each for information of three Al Shabaab key leaders under the programme; Reward for Justice.

They are Ahmed Diriye, the Al Shabaab Emir since 2014. He was seen in a video meeting with Al Shabaab fighters prior to the January 2020 attack on Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya.  Muhad Karate, the Al Shabaab’s second shadow deputy Emir, who is responsible for Amiyat, Al Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, which oversees suicide attacks and assassinations in Somalia, Kenya and other countries in the region; and Jehad Mostafa, a US citizen and former resident of California, who is serving as an instructor at Al Shabaab training camps, and a leader in Al Shahaab media wing and an explosive expert.

This comes as the planned phased withdrawal of 19,000, ATMIS troops has raised concerns in the region that it would make Al Shabaab more brazen at a time SNA is not yet ready to secure the whole country. The UN Security Council had ordered the first phase of the withdrawal of 2,000   troops by end of December 2021.

These plans were made by the UN in consultation with the previous government of president Muhammed Abdullahi Farmajo, but The East African gathered that the Pentagon is seeking either a delayed withdrawal of the first phase to maintain the current momentum against Al Shabab.

For the delay to occur, the African Union must hold discussions with the Somalia government, after which any adjustments must be forwarded to the UN Security Council for approval.

Since May, the President Mahmud government has sustained a series of attacks against Al Shabaab that has seen the militants lose considerable ground in their strongholds in central and Southern Somalia.

The militants have resorted to high-profile attacks on civilian soft targets, just like the October 29 attack when the militants detonated two bombs near the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu at Zobe junction killing 100 people and critically injuring 300.


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