In a significant policy reversal, President Joe Biden has approved a plan to deploy several hundred U.S. troops to Somalia.
According to The New York Times, Biden also signed off on targeting about a dozen leaders of the Al Shabaab, an Islamic insurgent group active in the region.
The change undoes former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw 700 soldiers from the war-torn African country.
Per The New York Times:
Together, the decisions by Mr. Biden, described by the officials on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”
Mr. Biden signed off on the proposal by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in early May, officials said. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, acknowledged the move, saying it 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.
Ms. Watson did not indicate the number of troops the military would deploy. But two people familiar with the matter said the figure would be capped at around 450. That will replace a system in which the U.S. troops training and advising Somali and African Union forces have made short stays since Mr. Trump issued what Ms. Watson described as a “precipitous decision to withdraw.”
The administration’s primary objective is reduce Al Shabaab’s capacity to wage guerilla warfare.