US president Joe Biden appoints new ambassador to Somalia

FILE: On Wednesday, White House announced that Richard Riley, a career diplomat, will be the new ambassador to Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The United States has appointed a new ambassador to Somalia just days after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud unveiled the second phase of the Al-Shabaab crackdown which will target most parts of the central and southern parts of the country where the militants still have a huge presence.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that Richard Riley, a career diplomat, will be the new ambassador to Somalia and would now probably oversee the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab as the country targets to completely eliminate the militants by the end of 2024 when foreign troops are expected to exit.

Riley will be replacing Ambassador Larry Andre who was deployed in the country in January 2022 and who is credited for bringing synergy between international partners in the theory quest to help Somalia effectively deal with Al-Shabaab militants.

Andre has now been recalled to Washington DC. According to the statement, Riley is currently a senior diplomat at the US embassy in Ottawa, Canada. Previously he has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the UK, China, Russia, and more important in Yemen where he served as deputy chief of mission. His experience in war-torn countries could have informed the White House's decision.

Andre has been instrumental in the fight against Al-Shabaab and over the weekend, in an interview with Voice of America, he confirmed that the Al-Qaida-linked group has lost several strategic towns in Somalia while lauding security forces who have been instrumental in the war for the last seven months. "Somali-led offensives have restored Somalia's sovereignty to 1/3 of the territory formerly misruled by al-Shabaab," Larry André told VOA Somali in an email. "Ending al-Shabab's oppression is one step further toward Somalia's full revival." Since January, the United States donated weapons to the Somali national forces to support operations against al-Shabab.

The U.S. also trains an elite Somali army unit known as Danab, which means "lightning" and has been leading the offensive against al-Shabab. Through a statement on March 25, the Ministry of Information said that 3,000 al-Shabab militants were killed and 3,700 more were injured in the first phase of military operations between August of last year and January.

The government also said 70 towns and villages have been liberated from al-Shabab. The new envoy Riley will also be expected to work closely with members of the international community as he tries to bring order and stability to the country which was once a beckoning of hope in the Horn of Africa. The Al-Shabaab militants are fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed federal government of Somalia.


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