Two weeks after President Donald Trump gave military officials wider authority for conducting airstrikes in Somalia, the United States military said that dozens of troops had arrived in the country, a sign of increased U.S. involvement there.
The arrival of the roughly 40 regular troops in the capital of Mogadishu occurred on April 2, and marks, as the BBC writes, "the first time regular U.S. troops have been deployed in Somalia since 1994," months after a notorious battle that left thousands of Somalis dead.
The Associated Press writes:
The U.S. Africa Command on Friday said this deployment is for logistics training of Somalia's army, which is battling the extremist group al-Shabab that emerged from the country's years of warlord-led conflict.
Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, however, has argued that al-Shabab emerged as blow-back for U.S. policy there.
The U.S. military involvement in the country is far from new. The New York Times wrote in October:
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The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the "Black Hawk Down" battle in 1993.
Author Nick Turse also wrote in December that
a White House report made it clear, for instance, that "the United States is currently using military force" in Somalia. At about the same moment, the New York Times revealed an imminent Obama administration plan to deem al-Shabab "to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials," strengthening President-elect Donald Trump's authority to carry out missions there in 2017 and beyond.
As part of its long-fought shadow war against al-Shabab militants, the U.S. has carried out commando raids and drone assassinations there (with the latter markedly increasing in 2015-2016). On December 5th, President Obama issued his latest biannual "war powers" letter to Congress which noted that the military had not only "conducted strikes in defense of U.S. forces" there, but also in defense of local allied troops. The president also acknowledged that U.S. personnel "occasionally accompany regional forces, including Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, during counterterrorism operations."
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that since 2004, at least 300 people have been killed in Somalia as a result of at least 42 confirmed U.S. strikes.