US military returns to Somalia as West grows force in Africa

The Pentagon has sent a team of uniformed military advisers to Somalia, the first American troops assigned there since 1993, when 18 Americans were killed in the failed “Black Hawk Down” mission.
The advisers were deployed to the Somali capital of Mogadishu last month to help provide logistics, planning and communications assistance to Somali and other African forces combating the Shabab, the Islamic militant group, according to the official, who spoke anonymously to discuss the mission.
Shabab fighters carried out a bloody siege at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last September in which more than 60 men, women and children were killed.
“The U.S. has established a military coordination cell in Somalia to provide planning and advisory support to the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali security forces to increase their capabilities and promote peace and security throughout Somalia and the region,” Col. Tom Davis, a spokesman for the military’s Africa Command, said in a statement on Friday in response to an online report by The Washington Post.

The Obama administration has been edging closer toward reversing a policy in place for decades that effectively bars American “boots on the ground” in Somalia. In January 2013, the United States officially recognized a new federal government in Somalia, re-establishing diplomatic ties for the first time in decades. The State Department has not yet reopened an embassy in Mogadishu, but officials from the American Embassy in Nairobi visit there frequently.
Gen. David Rodriguez, the head of the Africa Command, made an initial trip to Mogadishu last summer. Last October, Amanda J. Dory, the Pentagon’s top policy official for Africa, told a Senate committee that the military would increase its presence in Mogadishu “in tandem with the State Department.”
The C.I.A. has long maintained a covert presence in the country, at times financing its security services, and American Special Operations forces have periodically conducted drone strikes or commando raids.

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