President Joe Biden has ordered US ground forces back to Somalia. But why? What is the mission? What defines success? Will US troops turn out to be targets for terrorist training? Has anything changed since President Donald Trump brought back the approximately 700 soldiers remaining in the East African nation during December 2020? The answers to these questions are by no means clear.
Trump believed US involvement in foreign wars was not in America’s interest. Consequently, the contingent of mostly special forces, the remnant from the days of Black Hawk Down, had departed by the time Biden took office. So, what caused the US national security apparatus to think America’s young service members needed to return to harm’s way?
In an exclusive interview, Liberty Nation asked Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense and national security columnist for The Washington Times and The American Spectator, what concerns could have prompted the Biden defense team to send US soldiers back to Somalia? Babbin responded:
“There’s simply no rational explanation for Mr. Biden’s decision to send US troops to Somalia. US troops should only be sent into danger in cases where our vital national security interests are at stake. We have no such interests in Somalia. Both Presidents Bush 41 and Clinton sent US troops into Somalia as ‘peacekeepers.’ The latter attempt, under a UN Security Council resolution, resulted in the infamous 1993 Black Hawk Down incident in which 18 US troops died because they weren’t supported by allied forces. Another US soldier was killed there in 2017. In none of these cases was anything accomplished that benefited US national security.”
In Babbin’s recent article for The American Spectator, he suggested that Biden’s security team is ignoring the rise of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, like al-Qaeda and ISIS-K. Is sending troops back into Somalia an attempt to appear to be doing something against global terrorism after the humiliating Afghan withdrawal disaster? According to Babbin, “If that’s Biden’s intent in sending troops to Somalia, he will fail, as he usually does. His credibility can’t be recovered by sending troops there to be targets for terrorists. Biden needs to do something to suppress the terrorist threat that Afghanistan will soon pose.”
The justification for establishing a presence in Somalia, a failed state, is that US “troops will help Somalia’s fledgling government fight the al-Shabaab military group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda,” wrote Steven Nelson in the New York Post. Further attempting to posit a rationale for the American forces in Somalia, “Biden’s directive was made in response to a request from the Defense Department to re-establish a base of operations in Somalia, which the administration is referring to as a ‘small, persistent US military presence’ there,” a Washington, DC, news outlet reported. But there is a fundamental flaw in the concept of “persistent presence.” When does it end? The word “persistent” portends that it doesn’t. A mission without an end point makes no strategic sense.
But the White House thinking may be too convoluted. Biden military strategists explained how they could leave Afghanistan and still effectively defeat the rise of terrorism. In August 2021, a confident Biden declared that the United States would rely on an “over-the-horizon” capability – using aircraft that can do damage to the enemy without boots on the ground – to “keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States.” But General Stephen Townsend, who heads US Africa Command, is in favor of stationing a permanent force in Somalia, telling US lawmakers that “over-the-horizon” attacks on terrorists generated from nearby Djibouti, a border neighbor of Somalia, “is like commuting to work.” That seems to contradict Biden’s confidence that terrorists can be potently threatened from a US airbase thousands of miles away, as in Afghanistan.
With the Biden administration’s decision to deploy American soldiers into daily peril in Somalia, US taxpayers once again must pay for US armed forces to bivouac in a foreign country, performing more as targets for al-Shabaab than making a difference in securing peace for the Somalis. Mere “presence” as a national security objective is a poor substitute for a plan with clear results as evidence of success.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.