After a power struggle splintered the security forces into rival factions, Somalia’s new president has applauded the return of US troops to help fight a deadly insurgency and says delivering security depends on reconciliation with other Somali leaders.
This month, US President Joe Biden authorized the redeployment of hundreds of US soldiers to train, equip, and support the military’s elite Danab special forces in their fight against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew the troops in December 2020, leaving them to fly in and out of neighboring Kenya for missions, a move that experts described as costly and dangerous.
“We are very much grateful for President Biden to send back some of the forces. they always have been playing a role in war against al Shabaab,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told newsmen, adding that he wanted U.S. support to continue.
As it seeks to destabilise the government, Al Shabaab has killed tens of thousands of Somalis in bombings in Mogadishu and elsewhere, as well as civilians in neighboring countries in attacks on a shopping mall, hotel, university, and restaurants.
This month, Somali legislators elected Mohamud as president; the country has not held one-person-one-vote elections since the civil war began in 1991.
Legislators defeated the previous president’s attempt to extend his term, but the issue deeply divided security forces, who clashed in the streets of the capital.
The protracted crisis diverted attention away from a growing humanitarian crisis that has forced more than 6 million Somalis to rely on food aid.
The top United Nations official in Somalia, James Swan, praised Mohamud’s choice of a prominent politician to handle the emergency, which was triggered by the worst drought in 40 years.
Since Mohamud’s election victory on May 15, official government social media accounts have been flooded with images of him greeting former political opponents and beaming Somali regional leaders, many of whom fought armed clashes with his predecessor.
“The people must reconcile,” Mohamud, a former educator, said from a gilt chair in Villa Somalia, a government complex painted in the national colors of white and sky blue.
Mohamud’s words have encouraged allies who have been frustrated by his predecessor’s slow progress, which has allowed the insurgency to amass a massive war chest.
Lieutenant General Diomede Ndegeya, commander of African Union forces in Somalia, expressed hope that local forces and administrations could assist in securing roads so that AU and Somali forces could make progress against al Shabaab.
“It’s important for us to all work together,” he said. The most recent major offensive against al Shabaab took place in 2019. The insurgents still control large swaths of the country, but African Union peacekeepers are scheduled to leave in three years.
Al Shabaab overran an AU peacekeeping base this month, killing dozens of troops.
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