According to a Pentagon statement released on Friday, President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops from Somalia. However, this move doesn’t equate to a withdrawal from Africa. The troops are expected to be repositioned in the neighboring countries. Currently, the United States has about 700 troops stationed in the country.
“The President of the United States has ordered the Department of Defense and the United States Africa Command to reposition the majority of personnel and assets out of Somalia by early 2021,” the Pentagon statement said.
“While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy,” a news release announcing the withdrawal specified. “We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition.”
The Pentagon stressed that Washington remains committed to our African allies despite the announced withdrawal from Somalia. It vowed to continue supporting the Somalian government in its continued fight against the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
It was reported that Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller decided on a troop reduction earlier last week when he made a rare visit to Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, while visiting U.S. troops in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.
Following the withdrawal, is expected that the majority of U.S. troops will “reposition” to Kenya and Djibouti “to allow cross-border operations by both U.S. and partner forces in order to maintain pressure against violent extremist organizations operating in Somalia.” Some of the troops will, however, deploy out of Africa.
“The U.S. will retain the capability to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia, and collect early warnings and indicators regarding threats to the homeland,” the Pentagon’s statement added.
Recently, a CIA paramilitary officer and former Navy SEAL was killed at Gendershe, a village about 30 miles southwest of Mogadishu, during a raid with Somalian “Danab” Special Forces troops. Intelligence had reported that several al-Shabaab senior officers were supposed to be in the village.
Somali SF troops, accompanied by U.S. Special Operations troops, disembarked from helicopters and attacked. However, the al-Shabaab terrorists detonated a car bomb that killed the CIA paramilitary officer. The raid was unsuccessful.
The Somalis have been struggling to contain the terror group which has been active in the country since its formation in 2006. The U.S. has conducted an active drone campaign against the group and has targeted several of its leaders. While Somali troops have largely pushed al-Shabaab out of the larger cities, the terror group still is active destabilizing and spreading its influence in many of the country’s rural areas.
Al-Shabaab has been aligned with al-Qaeda since 2012.
Many analysts and military members are concerned that the timing of the U.S withdrawal from Somalia couldn’t come at a worse time. After decades of civil war, the Somali government now has to fight both al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda’s Islamic terrorists. The government is just in the first steps of getting the country back under control. Tellingly, the United States recently re-opened its embassy in Somalia for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The Somali government has important parliamentary elections coming in December followed by presidential elections in January. Al-Shabaab has communicated its intention to disrupt them.
The Danab Special Forces unit is beginning to assert itself: It is now conducting nearly 80 percent of the offensive operations against the terrorists. But following a U.S. withdrawal and without U.S. assistance, the Somali government’s gains may disappear.