After President Joe Biden this spring overturned his predecessor’s order to withdraw American soldiers from the country and sent hundreds of them back to fight against one of al-most Qaida’s potent international affiliates, the U.S. military is rushing to make up for lost time in Somalia.
According to U.S. and Somali officials, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the troops in the final weeks of his presidency aided the militant al-Shabab movement’s expansion in size and strength, hindered American ability to support Somali troops with air support and operational intelligence, and delayed the construction of military facilities like a clinic and training grounds.
These sources detailed the expensive and risky measures taken by American soldiers to continue helping their Somali military allies, the Danab, or “Lightning,” special forces brigade, following the evacuation order. Five U.S. service members claim that because American personnel are moved around so frequently, they are exposed to greater threats. For instance, U.S. troops might rotate through the country for three or four weeks at a period before leaving for two weeks before returning.
According to leaders from both nations, the Danab force continued to conduct operations despite the official U.S. exit, citing its success on the battlefield after over ten years of American-funded training. Danab, according to U.S. and Somali officials, is gradually changing the perception of a force that is frequently seen by civilians as armed criminals.
One American service member observed, “I felt like it was a genuine respect to Danab that they were able to keep on the fight despite the rather abrupt removal of U.S. military help.” Because they were not authorized to speak to the media, he and five other U.S. service men agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
A 2021 operation in central Somalia demonstrated Danab’s ability to be successful without American troops there. Following a tip from a local, soldiers in Danab claim to have detained a man accused of killing dozens of rebels and kidnapping a French intelligence operative ten years ago. During the seven-week operation, the soldiers also astounded the locals in Camaare by renting houses and purchasing food rather than seizing it, according to 2nd Lt. Samir Salim Omar.
According to a few more interviews with Danab soldiers of different ranks at their training complex, headquarters in the capital, Mogadishu, and at the sites of several recent battles, as well as with US and Somali defense officials, military trainers, and ci officers, the victory of this specially trained force in seizing territory from al-Shabab and seizing some of its commanders has been the result of hard-won adjustments in the Somali military that began before the US withdrawal.