The Pentagon has revealed that the United States now has some 500 troops on the ground in Somalia even as it denies a “build-up” of forces in the African country.
The Pentagon announced in a statement on Thursday that there were now more than 500 US troops on the ground in Somalia, Fox News reported on Friday. That would be a significant increase in the number of American soldiers in Somalia since early 2014, when roughly two dozen US troops arrived there for the first time since 1993.
US Africa Command has also said that there have been 28 US airstrikes in Somalia this year, mostly from drones and against purported al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants.
The US also carried out its first airstrike against purported Daesh positions in Somalia earlier this month.
Build-up in Africa
Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., who is the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, at a press briefing on Thursday denied that the increase in the number of US troops in Somalia was a “build up.” He said there was a “flow of forces in and out” of the country.
“I’m not going to discuss exact troop levels. I think we’re a little under that 500 total, actually. I think it’s closer to 400, is probably what we — what we operate there,” he said.
The US military recently conducted six straight days of airstrikes in Somalia — from last Thursday to Tuesday, according to US media.
Fox News reported that in addition to Somalia, the US military had conducted over 100 airstrikes in Yemen.
In October, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, claimed that Daesh “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa after being pushed out of Syria and Iraq.
He said Pentagon planned to advise US President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the increased “allocation of forces” in Africa, citing the Daesh threat.