President Biden has secretly ordered US troops back into Somalia, reversing former President Donald Trump’s pullout of roughly 700 troops, according to a report.
Biden signed an order earlier this month that will allow the Pentagon to once again deploy troops to the East African country, with an estimated cap of 450, the New York Times reported.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the deployment would allow for “a more effective fight against Al Shabab,” the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group.
“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,” Watson said.
Trump in December 2020 ordered US troops to withdraw from Somalia and the Pentagon said the exit had been completed days before Biden took office in January 2021.
Biden is redeploying troops to Somalia despite holding firm to a pledge to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan after two decades of US occupation. He did not change course even as the Taliban reclaimed control of the country in the final weeks of the US presence.
“I’m now the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan — two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president,” Biden said in August of last year when the nation’s fall to the Islamist group became clear.
The latest deployment is likely to be met with bipartisan support — and opposition. Party leaders in Congress generally favor US military deployments and routinely clashed with Trump on foreign policy, while left-wing Democrats and libertarian and some conservative Republicans were more likely to disagree.
US troops have fought Islamic extremists in Somalia since the George W. Bush administration and before that famously intervened in the country’s civil war, with 19 US troops killed in a 1993 operation that inspired the film “Black Hawk Down.”
Recent American military operations in Somalia have been carried out under the Authorization for Use of Military Force that was passed by Congress three days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington. Critics have argued the 2001 AUMF does not legally cover actions in Somalia and have called on Congress to pass a new AUMF.