WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama cleared the way Monday for the U.S. to arm and train Somali forces, taking a step toward normal relations with the East African nation as it works to build confidence in its newly recognized government.
In a memo to Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama said he has determined that supplying defense equipment and services “will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.” The move doesn’t immediately provide new assistance to Somalia, but allows Kerry to consider taking that step in the future.
Somalia is trying to preserve fragile progress toward establishing its first functional government after two decades of chaos. The U.S. formally recognized the African nation’s new government in January.
BAMAKO, Mali – French military forces launched a fresh offensive Monday against jihadists in the northern Malian region of Gao who have staged a series of attacks since being ousted from power earlier this year, a French colonel said.
By nightfall, no direct fighting had been reported between French forces and the radical Islamic fighters from MUJAO, or Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. The French troops were proceeding cautiously because one of the French hostages being held by the al-Qaida-linked militants is believed to be in the area.
France has been talking about reducing its presence in its former colony in the coming months, but also has said it aims to keep about 1,000 soldiers there. In describing the latest offensive, French Col. Emmanuel Dosseur said his forces don’t want to give the impression that they’re going to “abandon our Malian friends.”
“It’s an operation in a zone where we want to deliver a severe blow,” Dosseur said.