Washington has deployed a handful of military advisors to Somalia. The advisors are tasked with helping African Union (AU) troops defeat the al-Shabab militant group.
The deployment of the military advisors marks the first time that US troops have been officially stationed in Somalia since the botched international humanitarian intervention in 1993, in which 18 American soldiers and hundreds of Somalis died in bloody fighting.
According to US Africa Command, the advisors arrived in Somalia in October and became fully operational last month. A US defense official told the AFP news agency that there are "fewer than five" advisors in the lawless country.
"The US has established a military coordination cell in Somalia to provide planning and advisory support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces to increase their capabilities and promote peace and security throughout Somalia and the region," US Africa Command spokesman Colonel Tom Davis said in a press release.
The advisors are stationed at Mogadishu airport. They are tasked with assisting the AU in its fight against the Islamist group al-Shabab. The AU, backed by a United Nations mandate, currently has more than 17,000 troops stationed in Somalia. Those troops hail from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Al-Shabab, which has ties to al Qaeda, primarily controls rural areas in central and southern Somalia. The militant group seeks to establish a hard-line Islamist state in the East African nation.
Somalia has not had a functioning central government since the collapse of General Mohamed Siad Barre's regime in 1991.
slk/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)