The United States military has acknowledged it has a "limited number" of trainers and advisers in Somalia to support the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
US Africa Command spokesperson Benjamin Benson told Voice of America on Thursday (July 3rd) that a "small military co-ordination cell" is in Somalia. He said the small number of US personnel have moved in and out of various locations in the country in small groups.
In October last year, the US Department of Defence had portrayed the arrival of a handful of military advisers in Somalia as the first deployment of American forces to the country since 1993. However, the US military has secretly maintained forces in Somalia since 2007, a US defence official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The United States has deployed up to 120 troops in Somalia and hopes to bolster its security ties to Somalia's government as it battles al-Shabaab militants, the official said. The troops have been mainly Green Beret special forces, who specialise in training and advising local armies.
The US military had chosen not to publicly reveal its footprint in Somalia out of concern for the safety of troops deployed and out of respect for the "sensitivities" of the Somali government, the defence official said.
The revelation of the years-long US troop presence comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to name the first American ambassador to Somalia since civil war erupted in the country more than 20 years ago.
Reuters first reported the US troop presence on Wednesday, citing a US government official.