Trump orders the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops in Somalia

Trump orders the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops in Somalia

US President Donald Trump has ordered the removal of most American soldiers from Somalia by early 2021, the Pentagon said in a statement on Friday.

"The US decision to pull troops out of Somalia at this critical stage in the successful fight against al-Shabab and their global terrorist network is extremely regrettable", Senator Ayub Ismail Yusuf told Reuters news agency in a statement, referring to the al-Qaeda-linked group.

Without providing details, the Pentagon said in a short statement on Friday (local time) that "a majority" of United States troops and assets in Somalia will be withdrawn in early 2021.

Last month, USA government inspectors advised against a withdrawal from Somalia, saying local forces would not be able to resist threats from militants without U.S. support.

The Somalia move is said to be part of plans by Trump to reduce USA troops serving overseas before leaving office next month.

Trump's withdrawal order comes on the heels of his decisions last month to drawdown troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500 service members in each of those countries by January 15, just five days before he leaves office. Mr. Esper favored drawing down USA forces operating in the volatile Sahel region of West Africa while maintaining the American presence in Somalia, according to a senior US official.

At the same time, the DoD emphasized the United States will continue to the possess the capability to "conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia".

"None of these operations are without risk", Milley said Wednesday of USA troops' role in Somalia. In a statement released Friday, the Pentagon explained that "the majority" of the roughly 700 soldiers now stationed in the country will be reassigned to positions in neighboring countries in East Africa.

"US troops have made a huge contribution and had great impact on the training and operational effectiveness of Somali soldiers", added Yusuf.

It is the third major withdrawal since Trump installed acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, a former Green Beret and counterterrorism official, to replace Esper at the Pentagon following Trump's election defeat.

As a result of Trump's decision, some forces may be reassigned outside of East Africa, the Department of Defence announced. The U.S. troops are expected to leave the country by early next year, the officials said.

The nature of the threat posed by al-Shabaab and the appropriate US response has been a matter of increasing debate in the Pentagon, which has been looking for opportunities to shift its focus toward China as a greater long-term challenge.

"The United States military support to Somalia has enabled us to effectively combat Al-Shabab and secure the Horn of Africa", Mr. Farmaajo wrote.

The decision is the latest by President Trump to reduce US participation in distant wars.

The Pentagon said the drawdown in Somalia does not mark the end of U.S. counterterrorism efforts there.

"Abandoning our partners could not come at a worse time", he said. AFRICOM also said it believes al-Shabab is the most "dangerous, capable, and imminent threat" on the continent, according to the report. In response, the Obama administration deployed the largest number of USA special forces to Somalia since 1993. The chaos spawned al-Shabaab's rise, and the militants at one point controlled the capital.

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