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President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to remove the majority of the 700 U.S. military troops in Somalia from the country, according to a Pentagon statement.
The order changes the mission American troops had to assist the local Somali military in its fight against al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliated group, but will allow counterterrorism strikes against the group to continue as needed.
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, said a Defense Department statement issued late Friday
The U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa, the statement stressed. We remain committed to our African partners and enduring support through a whole-of-government approach.
The U.S. has about 700 military personnel in Somalia who have been assisting the Somali military in its fight against al-Shabab, a terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida.
For weeks there has been speculation that the U.S. military troop presence there might be reduced significantly or fully withdrawn. That would have been in line with President Donald Trumps recent decisions to downsize the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500.
Under the order, the majority of U.S. troops will reposition out of Somalia — either out of the region or to neighboring countries — to allow cross-border operations by both U.S. and partner forces to maintain pressure against violent extremist organizations operating in Somalia.
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, said the statement.
The Pentagon stressed that the reduction in forces in Somalia was not a change in U.S. policy.
We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition, said the statement.