By Ryan Browne
Washington (CNN)The US is sending “dozens” of additional troops to Somalia to train and equip the Somali National Army and the forces participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia there.
A US military official told CNN that the new contingent would consist of about 40 soldiers.
In an email to CNN, Charles Chuck Prichard, a spokesperson for US Africa Command, confirmed the deployment Friday, saying that the deployment of “a few dozen troops from the 101st Airborne Division” came “at the request and in close coordination with” the government of Somalia.
“The objective of this particular train and equip mission is to improve the logistical capacity of the Somali National Army and the focus will be on teaching basic logistics operations, which will allow Somalia forces to better fight al Shabaab,” the spokesman added.
The US troops will join the small number of US special operations forces already there providing counterterrorism support to local forces battling the local al Qaeda affiliate, al Shabaab. That advisory mission has been underway for several years.
The US military official added that there are approximately 50 counterterrorism advisers already in Somalia as part of the ongoing mission.
The deployment was first reported by Voice of America.
President Donald Trump last month granted additional authority to US Africa Command to conduct counterterrorism airstrikes against the terror group..
But Africa Command made it clear that there was no link between the two.
“It should be noted that this training was planned long before President Trump issued updated authorities related to Somalia,” the spokesperson added.
The new training effort comes as US military leaders see new opportunities to work with Somalia’s newly elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, a dual US-Somali citizen who has embarked on a series of aggressive military reforms amid an ongoing al Shabaab boming campaign that has repeatedly struck the capital, Mogadishu.
“With the new government there, President Farmajo, we have an opportunity here to move forward,” Gen. Thomas Waldauser, the commander of Africa Command told reporters at the Pentagon last month.
“We have a great opportunity to work with him, and we look forward to continuing our counterterrorism part,” Waldhauser added.