What US re-entry into Somalia means for the Horn of Africa and for bigger powers

The US has announced it will resume a limited military presence in Somalia. The former administration withdrew troops from the country in 2020. The mission of the American soldiers is still what it has been for the last 15 years: to advise and assist Somali forces. US troops will not be directly involved in conflict. Their number, 450 to 500, is smaller than the last deployment.

The decision to redeploy in Somalia might appear to be surprising, for two important reasons. First, US president Joe Biden promised during his campaign to avoid the “forever wars” against terror lasting since 2002. None of these wars were ever fully won and remain unpopular with the US electorate. It is also surprising in the light of moves to restructure the US military to meet a threat from China.

What better explains this decision, however, is the renewed emphasis on the old rivalry with Russia since Russia’s Ukrainian intervention.

Announcing the redeployment, the Pentagon claimed it was partly for operational security. After their withdrawal in 2020, American special forces continued to train Somali soldiers outside Somalia, and at times travelled in and out of the country. The Pentagon said the redeployment would end the ad hoc support by creating bases inside Somalia.

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