Pentagon officials announced Friday that the “majority” of U.S. troops stationed in Somalia will be removed from the Horn of Africa early next year.
The nearly 700 U.S. soldiers stationed in the East African country, will not necessarily be coming home, but rather posted in neighboring countries or other regions.
“The U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa,” Pentagon officials said in a statement Friday afternoon.
“While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy,” the statement continued. “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 withdrawal of troops from Somalia — who fought to counter Islamic extremists, like al-Shabaab — comes just two weeks after President Trump announced the U.S. would be removing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving a 2,500 U.S. military personnel stronghold in each country.
At home, Trump has also been making moves at the Pentagon. Recently he sacked Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shortly after losing the election in early November.
Esper got on the wrong side of the president after he condemned the use of the Insurrection Act during nationwide protests this summer. The 1807 Act would have allowed Trump to deploy National Guard troops within the U.S.
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller fired the head of the Pentagon’s Defeat ISIS Task Force, Christopher P. Maier, earlier this week.
But even as conflict within Afghanistan has calmed in comparison to the early days of the U.S. war efforts there, Islamic-based terrorism in Somalia remains a heightened threat.
A CIA officer was killed last week during a raid in Somalia against al-Shabaab – a group considered the most deadly al Qaeda affiliate in the world.
Three Americans were killed earlier this year after al-Shabaab attacked a military base in neighboring Kenya.
The group gained notoriety after its 2013 attack at a Kenya mall, killing more than 60 people. In response, the Obama administration deployed the largest number of U.S. special forces to Somalia since 1993. That deployment resulted in the Battle of Mogadishu, commonly known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident which was featured in a bestselling book and feature film.
But the Pentagon remains steadfast in confirming the U.S. is not backing down from commitments in the region.
“We remain committed to our African partners and enduring support through a whole-of-government approach,” Department of Defense officials said Friday.
The U.S. has maintained large drone strike operations from neighboring countries. The Trump administration has been highly active with the use of drone strikes with 63 in 2019 and 48 in 2020.
“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,” concluded the Pentagon’s statement.