Updated: February 25, 2021
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to pull nearly all U.S. troops out of Somalia and relocate them to Kenya and Djibouti, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
American troops having been fighting local al Qaeda affiliate and al-Shabaab in Somalia for about 13 years.
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The nearly 700 troops stationed in Somalia would move to bases in Kenya and Djibouti, administration officials told the Wall Street Journal. They would only enter Somalia to conduct shorter counterterrorism missions against al-Shabaab, as well as smaller forces of Islamic State militant.
In a statement, the Department of Defense wrote: “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.
“The U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa. We remain committed to our African partners and enduring support through a whole-of-government approach.
“While a change in force posture, this action is 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.
“As a result of this decision, some forces may be reassigned outside of East Africa. However, the remaining forces will be repositioned from Somalia into neighboring countries in order 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.”
The officials who spoke with WSJ said the American troops are expected to leave the country early next year. They said the move was supported by the new acting defense secretary, Chris Miller. It reverses the course set by his predecessor, Mark Esper.