the Pentagon has announced the withdrawal of most of the U.S. troops stationed in Somalia by early next year, the last withdrawal ordered by President Donald Trump in what are likely to be the last weeks of his term in office.
” The president of the United States has ordered the Department of Defense and the United States Africa Command to withdraw most of the personnel and resources from Somalia by early 2021,” the Pentagon said in a statement released on Friday afternoon.
The United States is estimated to have some 700 soldiers stationed in Somalia and up to 6,000 in Africa.
US soldiers have been stationed in Somalia for 13 years and target militant groups such as Al-Shabab, a sister organization of Al Qaeda. In a broader sense, the US military presence in East Africa has been used to maintain influence on the continent in the face of the growing influence of other major powers such as China and Russia.
“Although it is a change in the attitude of the armed forces, this action is not a change in U.S. policy,” the Friday statement said. “We will continue to belittle violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland, while ensuring that we maintain our strategic advantage in the great power competition.
The Pentagon said that some troops would be repositioned outside East Africa while others would be moved to neighboring countries “to allow for cross-border operations by both U.S. and partner forces to maintain pressure against violent extremist organizations operating in Somalia.
“The US will continue to be able to conduct targeted counter-terrorism operations in Somalia,” the statement continued, “and to collect early warnings and indicators of threats to the homeland.
The Pentagon stressed that the decision was not a renunciation of the continent.
“The United States will not withdraw or retreat from Africa,” the declaration said. “We remain committed to our African partners and to our continued support through a whole-government approach”.
AFRICOM asked for a comment and provided Washington Newsday with a statement expressing similar feelings about this move.
“The US military is not withdrawing from East Africa,” said AFRICOM Commander US Army General Stephen Townsend. “By order of the President and the acting Secretary of Defense, U.S. Africa Command is repositioning our forces within East Africa. Our presence in Somalia will decrease significantly, but U.S. forces will remain in the region and our roles and commitment to partners will remain unchanged.
He said the country will continue its work in the region and within the country, including efforts to “build and maintain regional security, continue to monitor and intensify pressure on the al-Qaida franchise Al-Shabaab, and promote mutual interests with our East African partners.
Even from a distance, Townsend said that the U.S. forces are capable of countering any threat.
“We have proven that we can respond quickly in any region when there is a need.
arises – that remains unchanged,” said Townshend.
Two AFRICOM maps released by The Intercept in February this year show the “ongoing” and “non-permanent” presence of the U.S. military at 29 locations in 15 African countries. The former category included 16 locations in Ascension Island, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, Somalia and Uganda, while the latter included 13 locations in Cameroon, Libya, Mali, Niger, Somalia and Tunisia.
The locations were included in a partially edited publication of AFRICOM’s Management Plan 2020 from October last year.
The Pentagon’s latest announcement comes about a week after an unannounced visit by acting Defense Minister Christopher Miller to the Somali capital Mogadishu as part of a tour of Southwest Asia and East Africa. Only a few days earlier, news appeared in a number of important Western news agencies that a CIA officer had been killed during a battle in Somalia, although the circumstances were not specified in detail.
This is developing news. More information will be added as it becomes available.