U.S. to withdraw majority of forces from Somalia by early 2021

Photo taken on Feb. 19, 2020 shows the Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

The latest decision indicates that President Donald Trump is determined to downgrade U.S. participation in distant wars before his presidency ends.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — The Pentagon said on Friday that President Donald Trump had ordered to pull the majority of U.S. military forces out of Somalia by early 2021.

“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 Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement downplayed this move as a change in U.S. force posture rather than a change in policy. “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,” it added.

The United States reportedly has roughly 700 troops stationed in Somalia to assist local forces against al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller (L) welcomes Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

Trump’s intention to withdraw troops from Somalia has emerged in media reports for weeks. Somali President Mohamed Farmajo signaled his concern about this move back in mid-October.

“The United States military support to Somalia has enabled us to effectively combat Al-Shabab and secure the Horn of Africa. A victory through this journey and for Somali-US partnership can only be achieved through continuous security partnership and capacity building support,” he tweeted.

U.S. media said that the newly appointed Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller supported this move, effectively reversing the course set by former Pentagon chief Mark Esper, who favored maintaining U.S. military presence in the East African country.

The latest decision indicates that Trump is determined to downgrade U.S. participation in distant wars before his presidency ends. The Pentagon last month announced U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq would be reduced to 2,500 level respectively by mid-January 2021.

Currently, there are approximately 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and 3,000 troops in Iraq to support Iraqi forces in battles against remnants of the Islamic State, mainly for training and advisory purposes.

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