A U.S. amphibious ready group carrying about 2,400 Marines is heading for Somalia to support the airlift of U.N. troops guarding relief supplies, the Pentagon announced Tuesday night.
The task force, led by the amphibious assault ship Tarawa, will provide seaborne command, control and communications support for U.S. Air Force planes transporting 500 Pakistani troops to the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
The force also is available to provide search and rescue support as needed, said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Air Force Lt. Col. Jean Freitas. The first 40 of the Pakistani troops arrived earlier this week in Somalia, an East African nation racked by anarchy and famine.
NBC News reported Tuesday night that a contingent of Air Force commandos also is involved in the operation.
The report said the U.S. forces will protect airfields used by Air Force planes carrying Pakistani soldiers. The operation is intended to protect food and other supplies to alleviate widespread starving in Somalia.
There was no indication of any plan to involve U.S. forces in combat.
U.S. planes flew more Pakistani U.N. troops and equipment into Somalia's capital Tuesday, the second day of an operation to stop the plunder of famine relief for the country's 2 million starving people.
The U.S. Air Force will bring in another 440 Pakistani soldiers to join the 60 already on the ground in the next 10 days, officials said.
Belgian and Canadian forces could later join the Pakistanis in line with a Security Council resolution to send in an extra 3,000 troops if Somalia's warlords agree.