President Joe Biden on Monday signed an order redeploying hundreds of American troops to Somalia, The New York Times reports.
Biden signed an order authorizing the Pentagon to send hundreds of Special Operations forces to the war-torn African nation, reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out all 700 ground troops that had been stationed there.
Biden also approved a Defense Department request to target suspected leaders of Al Shabab, a Somali terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda.
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the move would enable “a more effective fight against Al Shabab.”
“The decision to reintroduce a persistent presence was made to maximize the safety and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more efficient support to our partners,” she said.
The move appeared to be in stark contrast to Biden’s remarks during the withdrawal from Afghanistan, when he declared it is “time to end the forever war.”
It’s unclear how many troops would be deployed but sources told the Times the number would be capped at around 450.
The troops are expected to focus on hurting the group’s ability to carry out terrorist attacks. An official told the Times that the goal is aimed at curtailing “the threat to a level that is tolerable.”
The unnamed official said the situation is different from Afghanistan because the Taliban has not expressed intent to attack the US and other terrorist groups do not control significant parts of Afghanistan from which to operate from.
The US views Al Shabab as a more significant threat and its strategy is aimed at disrupting leaders deemed a threat to “us, and our interests and our allies,” and maintaining “very carefully cabined presence on the ground to be able to work with our partners,” the official said.
Al Shabab, which has an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 members, pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2012.
The group has largely focused its attacks in Somalia and nearby countries.
In 2020, prosecutors alleged that the group was plotting a 9/11-style attack on an unnamed U.S. city.
Monday’s move was timed “with the swearing-in of the newly elected president who would be planning his offensive on Al Shabab,” an administration official told the Times.