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Biden approves redeployment of fewer than 500 ground troops to Somalia - officials

WASHINGTON, DC, USA - FEBRUARY 15, 2022: President of the United States Joe Biden delivers remarks to bipartisan county officials from around the country at the National Association of Counties 2022 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC on February 15, 2022. ( Kyle Mazza - Anadolu Agency )

US President Joe Biden has authorised the redeployment of fewer than 500 American troops into Somalia, US officials said on Monday, after Donald Trump ordered their withdrawal during his presidency, Reuters reports.

Prior to Trump's withdrawal, the United States had about 700 troops in Somalia focused on helping local forces defeat the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab insurgency.

"President Biden has approved a request from the Secretary of Defence to re-establish a persistent US military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against Al Shabaab," a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

READ: Trump may withdraw troops from Somalia as part of global pullback

"This is a repositioning of forces already in theatre that have travelled in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis, since the previous administration made the decision to withdraw," the official added.

The revamped troop presence will include fewer than 500 US troops, another US official said.

The official said the US policy, begun under Trump of rotating troops in and out, had created a "force protection risk" and that Biden "made the decision to increase the safety and effectiveness of our special operators."

Al Shabaab is seeking to topple the government and establish its own rule in Somalia, based on its strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

The insurgent group frequently carries out bombings in Mogadishu and elsewhere, as part of its war against the Horn of Africa country's central government.

Somalia has endured conflict and clan battles with no strong central government since the fall of dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, in 1991. The government has little control beyond the capital and the African Union contingent guards in an Iraq-style "Green Zone".

While the United States did not have troops in Somalia since Trump ordered their withdrawal in December 2020, the military has occasionally carried out strikes in the country and has had troops in nearby countries.

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