The U.S. military dramatically escalated its military presence in Somalia in recent months to nearly 400 troops, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.
The troop escalation marks an increase of four-fold since President Donald Trump took office and reflects growing U.S. concern over the robust al-Qaida affiliate Al-Shabab in Somalia. Trump has similarly escalated aerial operations against al-Shabab since taking office by designating the country an “area of active hostilities” which allows U.S. military commanders greater latitude in deciding which targets to strike.
The U.S. military’s confirmation of the troop increase comes just days after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in twin truck bombs, marking the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.
The U.S. troops in Somalia are both engaged in operational support missions and train, advise, and assist for the Somalian National Army. They also provide planning and assistance in intelligence operations. Approximately half of the U.S. forces are special operators accompanying the Somalian army outside the capital on missions to provide advice and some assistance.
A U.S. Africa Command spokesman speaking of the U.S. mission in April characterized the mission as “various security cooperation and/or security force assistance events in Somalia in order to assist our allies and partners.”
A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in May during a mission with the Somalian army becoming the first U.S. casualty in the country since 1993 during the Black Hawk Down incident.