The United States has secretly maintained a military presence in Somalia since 2007, according to a report from Reuters. And those efforts will only ramp up in the coming months as the US looks to help Somalia contend with al Shabaab, a militant group with ties to al Qaeda that has sought to overthrow the government and impose strict sharia law. A Somali lawmaker was assassinated by the group on Thursday, and al Shabaab has said the bloody attacks will continue. "The so-called lawmakers are the ones who brought the enemy Christians into our country. We shall continue killing the legislators in bundles," a spokesperson told Reuters.
The Obama administration agreed to formally recognize Somalia's government in 2013, reestablishing official ties for the first time in two decades. In January, the Pentagon revealed that it had dispatched over 100 advisors to Somalia during 2013. But US forces have quietly been helping out for longer than that; their efforts date back to when George W. Bush was in the White House. Troops are not involved in combat, according to Reuters, instead focusing on providing "advice and assistance in areas related to mission planning, small unit tactics, medical care, human rights and communications."
Up to 120 advisors are deployed across the country at any one time, and while those stays are described as "short-term," they've also been persistent to ensure that Somalia isn't left without US assistance. And in another sign of the improving relationship, US officials are moving beyond their longtime support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to offer more thorough training and funding to the Somalia National Army. The US is even preparing to name a new ambassador to Somalia, the first time it's filled that position since 1993.