US troops now commuting to work to help Somalia fight al-Shabaab
When President Donald Trump ordered roughly 700 U.S. troops to withdraw from Somalia late last year, it decreased the American footprint there, but not the mission to help that country’s military fight back against al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s largest affiliate.
Three months after the completed drawdown, senior U.S. Africa Command leaders say that they are essentially doing the same work, but “commuting” from Europe and other East African countries to get it done.
“There’s no denying that the repositioning of forces out of Somalia has introduced new layers of complexity and risk,” Army. Gen. Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM’s boss, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “… our understanding of what’s happening in Somalia is less now than it was when we were there on the ground, physically located with our partners. So we’re working to make this new mode of operation work.”
Al-Shabab continues to carry out attacks around Somalia, including in capital city Mogadishu.
And “they do desire to do harm to the U.S. homeland,” Marine Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, AFRICOM’s senior enlisted leader, told Military Times on Friday.
Containing them is AFRICOM’s top priority, and that’s accomplished by sending special operations forces to train, advise and assist local troops in the group’s Somalia home base.
With U.S. troops no longer rotating into the country, that means remote meetings over teleconferencing, in addition to periodic trips to the country for more hands-on engagements.
“It makes it more difficult,” Townsend said. “It doesn’t make it impossible.”
Source: Navy Times