Friday’s decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. military troops from Somalia includes soldiers involved in the fight against the terrorist group Al-Shabab.
Some 700 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Somalia, where they have trained Somali soldiers and carried out raids against Al-Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda. Trump withdrew the troops after reducing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in November.
” Though it is a change in troop posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy,” the Defense Department said Friday in a statement on Somalia’s withdrawal. “We will continue to humiliate violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland, while ensuring that we maintain our strategic advantage in the great power competition.
“The U.S. will continue to be able to conduct targeted counter-terrorism operations in Somalia and collect early warnings and indicators of threats to the homeland,” the statement added.
According to the Department of Defense, part of the U.S. forces will be moved to “neighboring countries,” which would possibly allow the U.S. to continue monitoring the activities of Al-Shabab and conduct “cross-border operations.
In a statement sent to Washington Newsday in an e-mail on Friday, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, stated that their involvement in the region would remain “unchanged”.
“Our presence in Somalia will decrease significantly, but US forces will remain in
region and our roles and commitment to partners will remain unchanged,” said Townsend. “The U.S. remains committed to our work in East Africa and Somalia, including building and maintaining regional security, continuing to monitor and intensify pressure on the al-Qaida franchise Al-Shabaab and promoting mutual interests with our East African partners.
In September, Heidi Berg, Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy, told reporters that Al-Shabaab is “the most capable terrorist group on the African continent in terms of its ability to regionally threaten Western interests. According to the Military Times, the U.S. forces had carried out 46 air strikes against Al-Shabaab by September 2020.
Al-Shabab, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, was responsible for attacks against both Somali and US soldiers. In September, an Al-Shabab suicide bomber attempted to infiltrate a Somali military facility. The attack killed three Somali soldiers and wounded one US soldier. The U.S. soldier received medical treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.
Trump had promised to reduce troop participation abroad in his speech on the nomination of the president in August. “Unlike previous governments,” Trump said, “I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home.
Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Somalia was contrary to the policy of former Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Esper advocated a redistribution of troops overseas, but did not want to commit to a reduction of troops. In November Esper was dismissed by Trump.