Cape Town - The US troop presence in Somalia, under a revamped military deployment plan, is now expected to number less than 500 troops, a senior Biden administration official said on Monday, citing a Reuters report.
The Biden-led administration hinted on Monday that American troops may return to Somalia after an authorisation by US President Joe Biden for their deployment.
Former US president Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia during his presidency.
Prior to Trump's withdrawal, the US had about 700 troops in Somalia to help the local forces defeat al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked insurgency.
"This is a repositioning of forces already in theatre who have travelled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Biden had approved the request from US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to "enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab".
The Guardian writes that the aim of the deployment will be to boost the capacity of Somali forces to disrupt al-Shabaab sufficiently so the group is not able to plot attacks against the US, such as the January 2020 assault on the American airbase at Manda Bay in Kenya.
Congratulations to the people of Somalia on the successful completion of their presidential election on May 15, and to @HassanSMohamud on his victory. The country's leaders now can focus on reforms to achieve our shared goal of a peaceful and prosperous Somalia.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 17, 2022
Former Somali leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud won the presidency again in voting by parliamentarians on Sunday.
“With the conclusion of this process, Somalia now has an opportunity to focus on the political, economic, and security reforms necessary to advance the interests of the people of Somalia,” the US Department of State said.
The US said Somalia’s new president and all Somalia’s leaders need to prioritise strengthening democratic governance and institutions; developing security forces to prevent and counter terrorism and assume full security responsibility from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, by enacting economic reforms to complete Somalia’s path to debt relief and strengthen the economy; and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to the millions of Somalis suffering from devastating drought, the US Department of State said in a statement on Monday.