The trainers the US sent to Somalia last fall weren't really the first American troops in the country since the 1993 Black Hawk Down debacle, officials have revealed. A deployment of around 120 troops on the ground has been in place in the country since 2007 to help fight Islamist al-Shabab rebels, officials tell Reuters, which notes that a State Department official mentioned in a speech early last month that a "small contingent of US military personnel" had been present in the country for several years. Officials say the American troops are trainers and advisers and until last year, they had been working with the multinational African Union mission in the country instead of Somali forces.
A State Department official tells Reuters that the existence of the American presence is being revealed now because "in the past, our assessment of the security situation in Somalia informed our decision to err on the side of force protection concerns," but now, the government doesn't believe that "acknowledging the US presence will increase the already high threat to our personnel and citizens operating in Somalia." The US plans to appoint its first ambassador to Somalia in more than 20 years soon, the Atlantic notes, although unlike China and Italy, the US isn't preparing to reopen its embassy. (Read more Somalia stories.)