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A senior U.S. defense official has confirmed to Fox News on Monday that President Joe Biden has authorized the deployment of hundreds of Special Operations troops inside Somalia.
The decision comes alongside approval of a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of the al-Shabab terrorist group that operates inside the east African country’s borders, the official said.
It also comes after the Pentagon announced in December 2020 that the “majority” of U.S. troops previously stationed in Somalia would be removed from the Horn of Africa in early 2021.
The nearly 700 U.S. soldiers stationed in Somalia would not necessarily be coming home, but rather posted in neighboring countries or other regions, Pentagon officials said at the time.
“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,” Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told the New York Times in a statement, adding that the moves will enable “a more effective fight against al-Shabab.”
A senior administration official that spoke to the newspaper said the Biden administration’s strategy in Somalia includes targeting al-Shabab members suspected of playing roles in developing terror plots outside of the country – and bringing down “the threat to a level that is tolerable.”
Al-Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, is now estimated to have up to 10,000 fighters, the New York Times also reported, citing intelligence officials.
Fox News’ Liz Friden, Lucas Tomlinson and Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.