American military preparing for seven-year mission to battle Islamist militants in Somalia

By Brian Brinker

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will extend the national emergency declaration in Somalia for at least one more year. The Pentagon, however, is buckling down for an even longer mission, one that could extend for seven years or more. President Trump cited the Islamist insurgency in the country as an “unusual and extraordinary threat.”

Currently, the U.S. Special Operations Forces are working to establish and train an elite unit of Somali soldiers to combat al-Shabaab militants. The group has been linked to al-Qaeda. While President Trump has sought to diminish America’s large and expensive military presence across the world, some hotspots remain too dangerous to ignore.

Somalia has struggled for decades. However, the latest iteration of the Somali government is gaining some traction and is proving to have staying power. In an attempt to exert control over the country, a unity government was formed in 2000. Still, the United States and other African governments have had to intervene on several occasions.

At times, the capitol Mogadishu has fallen under control of Islamist groups. Officially, al-Shabaab has been kicked out of Somalia’s major cities, including Mogadishu. However, the group still holds a tremendous amount of sway. In 2018, the group forced the cancellation of a planned football tournament by simply making a phone call to the organizers.

American Special Forces have been advising the Somali National Army and have trained roughly 500 troops, which fight under an elite unit called Danab. In order to combat al-Shabaab and other militant groups, however, the Pentagon estimates that at least 3,000 Somali troops will need to be trained. This will likely take years.

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