Friday, March 10, 2017

Trump administration may increase involvement in Somalia

One of the recommendations of the Pentagon to the new Trump administration is to expand the battle in Somalia against the Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The recommendations would permit U.S. special forces to increase their assistance to the Somali National Army who are fighting against the Al-Shabab militants. According to anonymous officials the U.S. forces would be allowed closer to front lines in the battle and also loosen regulations governing airstrikes. The recommendations fit in with Trump's promise to speed up the effort to defeat the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. There have also been recommendations for increases in activity in Syria and Iraq including the possibility of sending ground troops for combat roles as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
While so far, Trump's plans for the war on terror are quite similar to those of Obama, they appear to be more extensive and will no doubt cost more as well both financially and perhaps in casualties. According to Bloomberg, Trump intends to boost defense spending by $54 billion in his first budget.
There has been some concern in the U.S. about some Americans from Somali communities traveling to Al-Shabab training camps raising fears that they might return to the U.S. and carry out terror attacks, at least according to Fox news. Somalia was one of seven countries included in the Trump travel ban which has now been suspended by federal courts.
General Thomas Waldhauser, who heads the U.S. Africa Command claimed in an interview that Somalia was the most perplexing challenge for the US. He said that the U.S. was "trying to take a look at Somalia from a fresh perspective in the way ahead". He said that the US was attempting to weaken the Al-Shabab insurgency to the point where it could be defeated by the country's own armed forces could defeat it. At present, there are about 50 U.S. special forces that rotate in an out of the country to help the local troops. Officials said the new plans could involve a small increase in U.S. troops. In 1993 two U.S. helicopters were downed over Mogadishu killing 18 American troops. The U.S. withdrew from Somalia after the bodies of the U.S. soldiers were dragged through Mogadishu the capital. Although Al-Shabab has left Mogadishu, it continues terror attacks on the city and retains considerable territory in the countryside. It has also expanded its attacks into Kenya and Uganda. Waldhauser refused to disclose details about the new options.
The African Union has 20,000 peacekeeping forces in Somalia but they are scheduled to be withdrawn in 2020. The U.S. would like to see Somali forces able to fight Al-Shabab by that time as they are unprepared to do so at present. Mohamed Mohamed the new Somalia president claimed that it would take another 2 decades to "fix' his country. Mohamed is a U.S. citizen who was elected this month. The appended video was at his inauguration.
Jim Mattis, the Trump administration Defense Secretary has already approved the recommendations and forwarded them to the White House but no final decisions have been made as yet. The White House declined to comment about the reports but referred questions to the Defense Department,


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