Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | us troops | support | 500 | somalia | mogadishu | fighting al-Shabab

US Troops, Personnel Rising to More Than 500 in Somalia

US Troops, Personnel Rising to More Than 500 in Somalia
A Somali soldier stands guard next to the site where Al Shebab militants carried out a suicide attack against a military intelligence base in Mogadishu on June 21, 2015. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 19 November 2017 03:03 PM

The number of U.S. military forces in Somalia has more than doubled in 2017, rising to over 500, as the Pentagon quietly posts more special operations personnel to advise local forces in pockets of Islamic militants, Politico reported.

The U.S. forces are the largest American contingent since the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle in which 18 U.S. soldiers died, the outlet reported.

The growing Somalia mission also includes two new military headquarters in the capital of Mogadishu and stepped-up airstrikes to confront al-Qaida ally, al-Shabab.

“We had to put more small teams on the ground to partner in a regional way with the Somali government,” retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who commanded American special operations forces in Africa until June, told Politico.

“So we changed our strategy and we changed our operational approach. That’s why the footprint went up.”

As of Saturday, the United States has conducted 28 airstrikes in Somalia this year, nine of them this month, Politico reported. That's compared to 13 airstrikes and ground raids that the Pentagon announced last year and just five strikes and raids in 2015.

The increase is not without controversy inside national security circles, where skeptics site the ill-fated mission in support of the UN peacekeepers in 1993 in which two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and a pilot captured.

“That was a real concern when I was working on Somalia policy at the Pentagon and the White House,” Luke Hartig, who worked on counter-terrorism operations at the National Security Council in the Obama administration, told Politico.

“Some military people would say, ‘We’ve evolved a lot as a force, we’ve done these raids every night in Iraq and Afghanistan and can mitigate risk in a way we couldn’t in 1993.' But it is still one of the real catastrophes of U.S. military operations in the past couple decades."

But the arrival of the Trump administration gave the military an opportunity to make its case to a more receptive audience, an unnamed source told Politico.

“It wasn’t, ‘Oh thank God, new president, new party, now we can go kick ass,’ but there were opportunities with the change in the political situation,” the source told the outlet.

The Pentagon disputes the recent increase in troops represents a major buildup.

“I would not associate that with a buildup, as you’re calling it,” Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, told Politico. “I think it’s just the flow of forces in and out as different organizations come in that might be sized a little differently, and I certainly don’t think there’s a ramp-up of attacks.”

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The number of U.S. military forces in Somalia has more than doubled in 2017, rising to over 500, as the Pentagon quietly posts more special operations personnel to advise local forces in pockets of Islamic militants, Politico reported.The U.S. forces are the largest...
us troops, support, 500, somalia, mogadishu, fighting al-Shabab
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2017-03-19
Sunday, 19 November 2017 03:03 PM
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