A top U.S. diplomat says more troops are needed on the ground in Somalia, where Islamist militants are threatening to topple the government. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson made the comment Monday on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Uganda's capital, Kampala.
African leaders are discussing changes to the mandate of the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia, which helps to protect key government sites. The force currently has a little more than 6,000 soldiers stretched between Uganda and Burundi. The AU is considering an expansion of the force, and a change of rules that would allow it to go on the offensive against insurgent groups al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam.
Carson said the U.S. would support additional troops, in the same fashion it supports the current AU force.
Ahead of the summit, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni vowed to send Ugandan troops after al-Shabab. The group claimed responsibility for the July 11 bombings in Kampala that killed 76 people. Al-Shabab said the attack was retaliation for Uganda's participation with the AU peacekeeping force.
Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam rule large parts of southern Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu. The government controls only small portions of the city, mainly the airport, seaport and presidential palace.
More than 30 African heads of state are attending the AU summit, which runs through Tuesday. Along with Somalia, leaders plan to talk about health matters, food security and improving infrastructure.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.