US troops back in Somalia to fight al Shabaab

There are plenty of reasons for the US to be interested in Somaliland.

The US has a huge military base in Djibouti

The US’ decision to redeploy 500 troops to Somalia to help in the fight against militant Islamists is a clear sign of its support for new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

The redeployment came after former US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of the troops in December 2020 following years of strained relations with his predecessor Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”, who was voted out of office by Somalia’s lawmakers.

The US considered him to be a failure both in terms of governance and the campaign against Islamist militant groups al-Shabab and the much smaller Somali branch of the Islamic State (IS) group.

The announcement of what US Africa Command (Africom), describes as a “small, persistent US military presence” will come as a relief to Somalis who have experienced a surge of Islamist attacks since their departure – and to the US troops in neighbouring Djibouti who went in and out of Somalia to fill the security vacuum created by Mr Trump’s decision.

According to The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the number of al-Shabab attacks rose from 1,771 to 2,072 in the year following the US pull-out, an increase of 17%.

The number of battles with the security forces went up by 32%. Last month, security officials said that about 450 al-Shabab fighters attacked an African Union base in southern Somalia, killing at least 40 Burundian soldiers.

United Nations experts have described al-Shabab as al-Qaeda’s most powerful and wealthy affiliate. They estimate it has as many as 12,000 fighters and an ability to raise a monthly revenue of about $10m (£8m).

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