US President Joe Biden has ordered the full-time deployment of US troops to Somalia, claiming to offer help to the African country in its fight against the al-Shabaab takfiri militant group.
Biden "approved a request from the Defense Department to reposition US forces in East Africa in order to reestablish a small persistent US military presence in Somalia," a senior American official told reporters Monday.
According to the official, fewer than 500 US troops will be deployed to the country that has been beset by violence carried out by the militant group in recent years.
Biden’s order marks a reversal of former US President Donald Trump’s decision in December 2020 to withdraw 750 US troops, who had been stationed there.
The official said Biden’s decision was aimed to reduce the security risks to US troops rotating into the country since January 2021.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin viewed the current form of operations as "inefficient and increasingly unsustainable".
“The purpose here is to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab by local forces... Al-Shabaab has increased in their strength and poses a threat," the spokesman said.
Kirby also insisted that the US forces would focus on training and advising Somali forces, stressing that the American troops would not be directly engaged in combat operations.
The claim that the deployment is aimed to fight terrorism in the country has not gone down well with anti-war campaigners, who cite past experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq to smell a sinister game.
US-led allies invaded mineral-rich Afghanistan in 2001 on the pretext of the so-called war on terror. The military intervention aimed to decimate the Taliban and al-Qaeda groups, but ended up destroying the country and spawning a humanitarian disaster,
After 20 years of futile military adventure, the Taliban is back in power and the US-led allied forces have pulled out of the war-ravaged country.
The French troop deployment to Africa on a similar pretext has also proved to be a failure.
Earlier this year, France announced that it would withdraw thousands of troops from Mali due to a breakdown in relations with the country, a decade after launching a war without the initial approval of the United Nations or even the French parliament.
A French mission began in Mali in 2013 to allegedly fight militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups.
France, a former colonizer of Africa, also deployed thousands of soldiers to presumably prevent separatist forces from reaching Mali’s capital, Bamako.
The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes.
There have been two military coups in little over a year, amid growing demonstrations against France’s military presence.
Biden’s order comes as Washington is considering strengthening its military foothold in Africa to counter the growing influence of its rival, China, which has been promoting its ties with several African countries.