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US Sending Troops To Somalia For First Time Since 1994

The U.S. military reported to CNN that a new troop deployment to Somalia to train and equip the Somali National Army and African Union forces would be "a few dozen troops from the 101st Airborne Division at the request of and in close coordination with" the government of Somalia.

It will be the first U.S. troop deployment to Somalia in more than 20 years since Clinton and his campaign during the Somalian Civil War.

U.S. Africa Command spokesman Charles Chuck Prichard confirmed the deployment in an email to CNN on Friday. "The objective of this particular train and equip mission is to improve the logistical capacity of the Somali National Army and the focus will be on teaching basic logistics operations, which will allow Somalia forces to better fight al Shabaab."

Though these will be the first troops officially deployed to Somalia in the fight against al Shabaab, they are not the first U.S. forces in Somalia. A small number of U.S. Special operations forces are already there to provide counter terrorism support for local forces fighting the al-Qaida affiliate that has been underway for many years.

CNN reports that there are about 50 U.S. counter terrorism advisors in Somalia already. The BBC notes that the African Union force numbers about 22,000. Several other countries, including the U.K. and Turkey are also there training troops.

The troop deployment comes after President Donald Trump granted U.S. Africa Command additional authority when conducting air strikes against al Shabaab, though Africa Command made it clear there was no tie between the recent troop deployment and Trump's granting of authority.

"It should be noted that this training was planned long before President Trump issued updated authorities related to Somalia," Prichard added.

The training mission arrives at a rare moment of opportunity for Somalia, as its newly-elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, has pledged close ties with the U.S. in an effort to retake the capital, Mogadishu.

Gen. Thomas Waldauser, Commander of Africa Command, spoke to reporters at the Pentagon last month about the advantages Farmajo affords American forces.

"With the new government there, President Farmajo, we have an opportunity here to move forward … We have a great opportunity to work with him, and we look forward to continuing our counter terrorism part."

Farmajo and the Somali government have undertaken a number of aggressive military reforms and an aggressive bombing campaign targeting al Shabaab. This has included drone and missile attacks undertaken remotely by the U.S.

Sources: BBC World News, CNN / Photo Credit: USASOC/Wikimedia Commons

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