STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. military officials are preparing a proposal to send a special operations contingent back into Somalia, where security conditions have worsened in the months since nearly 700 troops were pulled out of the country, a news report said Tuesday.
The plan, which would involve several dozen troops, hasn’t yet been formally presented to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, The New York Times reported. The newspaper cited unnamed Pentagon policymakers saying they want to step up counterterrorism efforts against militants aligned with al-Qaida.
In January, President Donald Trump ordered some 700 U.S. troops out of Somalia, where special operations forces had been assisting local units for several years in a long-running battle against the al-Shabab group. Now, there are concerns that militants are gaining ground in the country, where U.S. airstrikes also have ground to a halt in recent months.
The Stuttgart-based U.S. Africa Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposal.
Although U.S. troops left the bases in Somalia, AFRICOM continues to send teams into the country on a rotational basis to keep up with efforts to train indigenous troops.
No U.S. airstrikes have been reported since President Joe Biden took office in January. The White House is in the midst of a review into rules regarding how airstrikes are conducted.
In 2020, the U.S. conducted 63 strikes against Islamic militants in Somalia. Before they were halted, AFRICOM frequently emphasized that the aerial attacks were crucial to keeping al-Shabab off balance.
Still, despite years of strikes and U.S. advisers supporting Somali forces, al-Shabab has maintained a fighting force of several thousand guerrillas and was able to mount high-profile attacks against partner and U.S. troops. In January 2020, one U.S. soldier and two defense contractors were killed when the militants stormed a military compound in Kenya that was used for carrying out missions in neighboring Somalia.
On Tuesday, al-Shabab attacked a Somali military training center in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 and injuring 20 others.