Politics

Biden set to redeploy U.S. troops to Somalia, reversing Trump withdrawal

Key Points
  • Biden approves a Pentagon plan to redeploy U.S. troops to Somalia, a senior administration official confirmed.
  • The move comes on the heels of evolving intelligence that suggests the extremist group al-Shabab could soon pose a larger threat to the region.
  • President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. service members from the war-torn country by 2021.
US army soldiers stand at an observation point during the "African Lion" military exercise in the Tan-Tan region in southwestern Morocco on June 18, 2021.
Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has approved a plan to redeploy U.S. troops to Somalia, a reversal of former President Donald Trump's order to withdraw U.S. service members by January 2021.

A senior administration official, who declined to be named in order to discuss White House thinking, said the move comes on the heels of evolving intelligence that suggests the extremist group al-Shabab could soon pose a larger threat to the region.

"Al-Shabab has taken advantage of Somali instability and fractious politics to become as I indicated al-Qaeda's largest and wealthiest global affiliate," the official said on a call with reporters. "We have seen regrettably, clear evidence of al-Shabab's intent and capability to target Americans in the region," the official added.

The senior administration official said that U.S. troops already stationed overseas would move to Somalia. When pressed, the official said that less than 500 U.S. ground forces would relocate to the war-torn country.

The New York Times, which first reported the move, cited unnamed officials saying several hundred troops would be deployed. The Times also said Biden had signed off on the proposal from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this month.

In 2020, Trump ordered the withdrawal of approximately 750 U.S. troops from Somalia by January 2021.

National security spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement to CNBC that U.S. military personnel have moved in and out of the country episodically since Trump's decision to remove troops.

"The decision to reintroduce a persistent presence was made to maximize the safety and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more efficient support to our partners," Watson added.

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