US troops boost forces in Nigeria, Somalia
(GIN) — U.S. forces, winding down in Afghanistan, are finding new battle fronts in Africa. According to published reports, a small team of U.S. advisors was sent “secretly” to Somalia to assist with operations against militants. Somalia has been at war with religious fundamentalists, called al-Shabab, but has made little headway against the group which still controls a large swath of the country.
“It is the first time U.S. troops have been stationed there since two helicopters were shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed in 1993,” wrote David Cloud in the Los Angeles Times.
“The U.S. soldiers assist a force of more than 18,000 under the auspices of the African Union, backed by the U.S. and other Western countries since deploying to Somalia in 2007 with logistics help, intelligence and planning,” officials told Cloud.
Although a small presence now, the number of advisors could expand in the coming year, a senior Defense Dept. official said, and become a “permanent presence” on the Horn of Africa. He called it something “that’s been in works for a while.”
On the western portion of the continent, the U.S. and Nigeria have been working on a joint effort against insurgency and terrorism in that country. This week, the Nigerian Army announced the establishment of a Nigerian Army Special Operation Command (NASOC) at a meeting with journalists in the capital city of Abuja.
The command allows the army to have a special group of “highly patriotic Nigerians ready to make sacrifices in the face of extreme danger,” said the chief of army staff, Lt-Gen. Onyeabo Azubuike Iherjirika.
According to Gen. Ihejirika, the United States, through its Africa Command, Special Operations Command Africa and the Office of Security Operations United States Embassy, is providing training assistance towards the quick set up of the NASOC.
At a recent Pentagon roundtable, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, who has led Africa Command since April, said he was “optimistic about the future.”
“Our basic premise is that it is Africans who are best able to address African challenges, and our strategy focuses on developing partner nations’ military forces through a wide variety of programs,” he said.
He acknowledged problems on the continent — Mali, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic — which require regional and international attention, but added: “I strongly believe our cooperative approach … will make enduring change possible.”