Trump may withdraw US troops from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq
Outgoing US President Donald Trump may withdraw nearly all American forces from Somalia, following his decision to reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan before President-elect Joe Biden takes over in January.
US officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Tuesday that the US Defense Department had received no orders for Somalia but there was a growing expectation that drawdown orders for some 700 troops on the ground in the African country would be coming soon.
The remarks came after the Pentagon announced earlier in the day that Trump would cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 and the number of forces in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by January 15, days before he leaves office.
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been involved in building up a specialized commando brigade in Somalia purportedly to assist government forces to fight off the Takfiri al-Shabab terrorist group.
Nathan Sales, the US State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, declined a Reuters request to discuss plans for US forces in Somalia on Tuesday. But he said the al-Shabab terrorist group posed a serious threat to regional security.
forces trained by the US called Danab, said any decision to pull the US forces back could undermine trust in the United States.
He said a rapid pullout also risked ceding ground to al-Shabab and would create a vacuum.
AFRICOM has also faced criticism from human rights groups that insist civilians have been caught in the crossfire and casualties from US airstrikes are higher than have been reported.
Under Trump, the number of airstrikes allegedly against al-Shabab and Daesh militants has dramatically increased in the Somali peninsula.
Since 2006, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants have been waging a bloody militancy in Somalia in an attempt to undermine its central government, which is supported by the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping troops.
Despite being ousted from large parts of south and central Somalia, al-Shabab continues deadly attacks on military and civilian targets, including at hotels, intersections, and checkpoints.
Al-Shabab militants have fought successive Somali governments as well as neighboring governments in Uganda and Kenya, the latter of which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the Takfiri group as part of African Union forces.
Somalia, which has been ravaged by decades of war and poverty, has faced instability and violence since 1991, when its military government was overthrown.