The head of the US Africa Command (Africom) indicated on Thursday that the Pentagon is not initiating a major escalation of the US combat role in Somalia.
Marine Corps Gen Thomas Waldhauser told reporters that the dozens of additional US soldiers being sent to Somalia are “logisticians” rather than infantry troops.
This “long-scheduled deployment” is primarily intended to help train Somali forces to become more effective in fighting al-Shabaab, Gen Waldhauser said.
He also disputed media reports that the Trump administration has “loosened rules for authority to strike” Shabaab targets. Africom has actually been given “a little more authority to strike” in order to assist the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and Somali forces in operations that they are unable to carry out on their own, Gen Waldhauser said.
Any US strikes are carried out in conjunction with the Somali government, he emphasised, adding that Africom is “going to great lengths to ensure” that civilian casualties do not occur when it does launch attacks.