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[10/17/16]  The Obama administration has covertly deployed hundreds of US troops to Somalia to wage a secret war in the impoverished East African country alongside private contractors and soldiers from African allied states, a New York Times article revealed Sunday.

Under the pretext of protecting US and African troops from terrorists in the al-Shabaab Islamist militia, the Obama administration has authorized the use of air strikes in the country.

As the Times bluntly noted, the mission, which is referred to in military circles as the “Somalia campaign,” has several hundred troops in the country at any one time and is “a blueprint for warfare which President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa—from Syria to Libya—despite the President’s stated aversion to “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones.”

The revelation, coming just days after government officials informed the public that the US had launched missile strikes in Yemen, demonstrates that the Obama administration has dragged the American people into yet another war without even a semblance of public debate.

The Somalia operations come on top of large-scale military interventions in Afghanistan, where US military forces have been waging war since 2001; Syria, where Washington is backing Islamist extremists to overthrow the Russian-backed Assad regime; and Libya, where US Special Forces have been deployed and air strikes have been carried out since August under the pretext of targeting the Islamic State.

In total, the Times notes that the US military has carried out air strikes in seven countries this year and special forces operations in “many more.”

The US is waging war in Somalia in support of the shaky Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which barely controls territory outside of the capital, Mogadishu. The regime was only able to establish itself following a brutal US-backed invasion by neighboring Ethiopia and thanks to ongoing support from African Union (AU) soldiers.

Between 200 and 300 US Special Forces under the control of Africom (African Command) collaborate regularly with Somali National Army units and soldiers from Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and Kenya to plan and conduct ground operations against al-Shabaab.

According to Obama’s semi-annual briefing to Congress on foreign military operations, the US forces are not only present to target al-Shabaab, which is aligned with al-Qaida, but also to provide “advise and assist” support to regional counter-terrorism efforts. This has been one of the favored formulations to justify the deployment of US soldiers to war zones around the world, such as in Iraq, where the alleged advisers frequently operate on the front line in fighting against ISIS.

Africom has repeatedly dismissed reports that its frequent air strikes, including at least 13 this year, have led to civilian casualties. In one of the most recent incidents Africom denied claims by officials in the autonomous region of Galmudug that a US drone strike killed 22 local soldiers and civilians last month in the city of Galkayo.

Even strikes authorized to support offensive operations launched by Somali forces in conjunction with US soldiers are routinely labelled as “self-defense” actions.