18 April 2017

East Africa: UPDF Welcomes New U.S Army Deployment in Somalia

Photo: The Observer
Uganda People's Defence forces soldiers in Somalia.

The Uganda People's Defence forces (UPDF) has welcomed the recent deployment of US soldiers to Somalia, saying the move will help escalate the fight against terrorism.

Last week, Charles Chuck Prichard, the US Africa command spokesman, revealed that a 'few dozen troops' from the 101st Airborne Division would be sent to Somalia. He noted that the new team would help train and equip the Somali national army and other peacekeepers, thus increase their logistical capacity to handle terrorists. The mission is set to last until the end of September.

"The focus will be on teaching basic logistics operations, which will allow Somalia forces to better fight al-Shabaab," said Prichard.

In a telephone interview with The Observer, Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson, welcomed the development and described the US as a major ally in the fight against terrorist groups like al-Shabab.

He said the Somali army and the African Mission troops would learn a lot of new tactics to fight terrorism from the US troops. With over 6000 troops there, Uganda has the biggest military contingent in Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Karemire revealed that unlike in the past when one had to get orders from Pentagon and Washington to carry out an operation, this time, region commanders would have the liberty to take control.

"They have cut down on the bureaucracy in their chain of command. Previously, they would need authorisation from very far in order to conduct certain operations but this time round the commanders in the region have that latitude to conduct operations without having to seek authorisation from very far away.

That will expedite attacks on al-Shabab," said Karemire. "Anyone who comes to expedite the destruction of the al-Shabaab and to build the capacity of the Somalia national army is a most welcome partner."

This is the first time since 1994 that regular US troops have been deployed in Somalia. In 1993, some 18 US army officers were killed in Somalia as they tried to unsuccessfully go after militia leaders associated with Mohammed Farah Aideed, an extremist leader. In 1994, former US President Bill Clinton pulled all American combat forces out of the country.

The new deployment follows a directive by US president Donald Trump signed last month designed to clamp down on al-Shabab. The terrorist group that is linked to the al-Qaeda controls a sizable portion of rural Somalia. It is involved in many ambushes with the most recent being Sunday's that reportedly killed five Kenyan soldiers and wounded four others.

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