U.S. Escalates Somalia Fight While Pentagon Downplays Buildup

U.S. Escalates Somalia Fight While Pentagon Downplays Buildup by John Vandiver - Stars & Stripes

STUTTGART, Germany — There are now 500 U.S. troops in Somalia, where the military has carried out daily airstrikes in the past week, but the Pentagon refuses to call it a buildup.

“I would not associate that with a buildup, as you’re calling it,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters Thursday in Washington. “I think it’s just the flow of forces in and out as different organizations come in that might be sized a little differently.”

McKenzie said the boost in attacks was simply a matter of hitting targets as they emerge. “So there’s no particular rhythm to it, except that as they become available and as we’re able to process them and vet them, we strike them,” he said.

Still, the sudden surge of servicemembers into Somalia over the past several months and the rapid spike in airstrikes — 28 so far this year — is a reversal from the past, when there were no regular troops in the country and airstrikes were extremely rare.

Driving the U.S.’s recent escalation is a closing window of opportunity as a 20,000-strong coalition of African armies prepares to leave the country after a decade of leading the battle against the al-Qaida-aligned group al-Shabab…

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