The Obama Administration secretly deployed an unknown number of troops in Mogadishu, Somalia late last year, officials are now confirming, and those troops remain there to this day as “military advisers.”
A cell of U.S. troops, numbering fewer than two dozen, has helped advise and coordinate operations with African troops while operating out of a base in the Somali capital. The Washington Post first reported the story Friday afternoon.
They are the first US boots on the ground in Somalia since the calamitous 1993 deployment Operation Gothic Serpent, which was couched as a humanitarian deployment but ended with the Black Hawk Down incident and the deaths of massive numbers of civilians.
The new troops are coming under no such pretense, or indeed any pretense at all since the administration chose to keep the deployment secret from the American public.
For a long period, American troops haven’t spent more than a few hours or a night in Somalia, a defense official tells U.S. News. This newly unveiled unit – known as a military coordination cell, or MCC – began preparing for its mission in October and deployed to Somalia in December. Members chiefly support the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali security forces, and do not themselves carry out any direct-action missions.
“Their mission is just to facilitate communication, not go out and pull any triggers,” the official says.
Somalia is considered a failed state, with large portions controlled by Islamic extremist groups operating on an increasingly broader scale. Somalia-based al-Shabab, which recently was endorsed by core members of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, reportedly conducted the attack on an upscale mall in Kenya in September.
The U.S. approach to quelling and containing violence in Somalia has been limited since the early 1990s to special operations raids, as well as aerial surveillance and strikes. Task Force Ranger in 1993 led an assault to capture lieutenants of a high-profile warlord, but the operation went awry when two helicopters were shot down. U.S. forces withdrew shortly afterward from the country.
Though the number of “military advisers” is believed to be fewer than two dozen at the moment, such deployments have often served as the vanguard for massive escalations, and protracted conflicts like the Vietnam War similarly began with the deployment of a handful of advisers.