According to a senior administration official's statement to the Hill, President Joe Biden has approved a request from the Secretary of Defense to "reestablish a persistent U.S. military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab, which has increased in strength and poses a heightened threat."
Up to 450 U.S. Special Operations troops reportedly have been approved for deployment to Somalia. The move reverses former President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from the region. Following the announcement, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab terrorists on June 3.
American Family News spoke to Jay Church with International Christian Concern (ICC), who once considered al-Shabaab to be "one of those homegrown terror groups responding to a lack of resources and opportunity." Men who are discontent and seeking another mission in life, says ICC's advocacy manager for Africa, are at a heightened risk to fall prey to terror groups.
Early on, ICC did witness a number of "negative interactions [in Somalia] between al-Shabaab and Christian communities in that phase of al-Shabaab." Coincidentally, in March 2008, al-Shabaab was added to the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
"In recent years," Church points out, "al-Shabaab has increasingly aligned themselves with the greater al-Qaeda entity" – resulting in what he describes as "an increasing Islamification of al-Shabaab, [and in turn] the increased targeting of Christians."
Increasing Islamification is something that Church explains is expanding across Africa as a whole. Many local terror groups are aligning themselves with larger groups like al-Qaeda or Islamic Stat – leading, he says, to those groups becoming "increasingly hostile toward Western religions, [as well as] toward moderate Islam."
Consequently, he explains, "locals who might have historically gotten along with their Christian neighbors are now being pressured or attacked if they don't cut off those good relations."
So, while the ICC spokesman feels the Biden administration's decision to deploy a limited number of troops to Somalia is the right move, something else is more important to him: "If the end result [of U.S. troops in Somalia] weakens al-Shabaab, that's a good thing for Christian communities in the area."