Special Operations Forces Set To Redeploy to Somalia as Biden Reverses Trump Withdrawal

May 16, 2022Hannah Ray Lambert
special forces somalia

Then-President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of all US troops from Somalia. President Joe Biden is sending them back. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell.

Several hundred special operations forces are set to redeploy to Somalia under an order signed by President Joe Biden. The move reverses former President Donald Trump’s order to withdraw almost all 700 ground troops from the country by January 2021.

Biden’s order comes amid increasing intelligence that al-Shabab, the Somali terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda, is increasingly posing a threat in the region. Biden also granted the Pentagon “standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders” of al-Shabab, the The New York Times reported, citing unnamed officials. The president approved the proposal earlier this month, the officials said.

“Al-Shabab has taken advantage of Somali instability and fractious politics to become […] al-Qaeda’s largest and wealthiest global affiliate,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters, as reported by CNBC. “We have seen regrettably, clear evidence of al-Shabab’s intent and capability to target Americans in the region.”

special forces somalia
US special operations forces host a range day with the Danab Brigade May 9, 2021, in Somalia. Special Operations Command Africa continued to train and advise Somali and African Union forces on a periodic basis after then-President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia by January 2021. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell.

In January 2020, al-Shabab overran the Manda Bay military base in Kenya, killing three Americans. Subsequent investigations determined that inadequate focus on threats in the region, insufficient training, and a culture of complacency contributed to the deadly attack.

In early May, al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia and killed soldiers serving under the African Union mission, though an accurate death toll was not immediately clear.

Despite Trump’s order for troops to withdraw from Somalia, US service members have still entered the country every so often to assist Somali and African Union forces in a noncombat role.

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that a “small, persistent” US military presence would be returning to Somalia to continue to train, advise, and equip partner forces in their fight against al-Shabab. Kirby emphasized that US service members will not be involved in combat operations.

“This is a repositioning of forces that are already in theater, who have traveled in and out of Somalia now on an episodic basis since January of 2021,” Kirby said. “It will be a moderate presence and the work that they’re doing will be specific to the threat.”

US forces host a land navigation course with the Danab Brigade May 18, 2021, in Somalia. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell.

Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin felt it was inefficient and at times dangerous to have American troops moving in and out of Somalia for training operations. Last year, Army Gen. Stephen Townsend likened the episodic presence to “commuting to work.”

Officials are still deciding on the timeline for sending troops back into Somalia, Kirby said, adding that troops will be establishing a persistent presence in the country, with no planned end date.

Kirby would not specify which branches or components would be going to Somalia. Earlier in the day, an unnamed White House official told reporters fewer than 500 service members would be stationed in the war-torn African nation.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information from the Pentagon press conference Monday afternoon.

Read Next: Pilot Who Landed A-10 After Catastrophic Gun Failure Earns Kolligian Trophy, Makes History

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
US Speeds Up Abrams Tank Delivery to Ukraine War Zone

The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or ...

March 21, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
US: War Crimes on All Sides in Ethiopia's Tigray Conflict

The Biden administration announced Monday that it has determined all sides in the brutal conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

March 20, 2023Associated Press
military pilots cancer rates
Higher Cancer Rates Found in Military Pilots, Ground Crews

In its yearlong study of almost 900,000 service members who flew on or worked on military aircraft b...

March 20, 2023Associated Press
whiskey pour
Veterans Lead the Way Among America’s Growing Craft Distilleries

American veterans are taking the lessons they learned in the military and changing the craft distilling industry.

March 20, 2023Mac Caltrider
military suicide veteran suicide
Military Moves To Cut Suicides, But Defers Action on Guns

In a memo released Thursday, Austin called for the establishment of a suicide prevention working gro...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
us military drills japan-south korea
US, Partners Stage Military Drills Amid Japan-South Korea Talks

The Sea Dragon 23 exercises that started on Wednesday will culminate in more than 270 hours of in-fl...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
leo jenkins a word like god
‘A Word Like God’: New Book From Army Ranger Leo Jenkins

In his latest poetry collection, Ranger-turned-writer Leo Jenkins turns away from war to explore cosmic themes of faith, fatherhood, and art.

March 16, 2023Mac Caltrider
us drone
Pentagon Video Shows Russian Jet Dumping Fuel on US Drone

The Pentagon on Thursday released video of what it said was a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a ...

March 16, 2023Associated Press
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved