U.S. President Donald Trump may withdraw nearly all U.S. forces from Somalia in the near future, U.S. officials allegedly said on Tuesday.
“The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said nothing had been finalized and that no orders for Somalia have been received by the U.S. military. But there appeared to be a growing expectation that drawdown orders would be coming soon,” Reuters reported.
The U.S currently has roughly 700 troops stationed in Somalia to assist local forces in their efforts to defeat the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab terror group.
The U.S. pulled troops out of two Somali cities – northeastern Bosaso and north-central Galkayo – about three weeks ago, according to the news agency. U.S. forces remain in Kismayo, a southern Somali port city. The U.S. military continues to operate a special forces airbase in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and maintain a presence at Baledogle Airfield, located about 60 miles northwest of the coastal capital.
News of Trump’s possible plan to recall troops from Somalia comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s announcement on Tuesday that the Trump administration will reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by January 15, five days before the president’s term ends. The U.S. Department of Defense will similarly reduce its number of troops in Iraq to 2,500 by pulling 500 servicemembers out of the country by the same date.
Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh served as the commander of Somalia’s elite, U.S.-sponsored Danab special forces from 2016- 2019. He told Reuters on Tuesday that a U.S. troop withdrawal from the country would “create a vacuum. The Somali security forces have good morale because of the U.S. troops … there’s the possibility of air support if they are attacked, they can have medevacs,” Sheikh explained.
Three Danab operators were killed and a U.S. officer was seriously wounded on September 7 after a car bomb detonated in the southern Somali village of Jana Cabdalle, a regional Somali government official said at the time. Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the Jubaland region about 37 miles from the southern port city of Kismayo.
“Two soldiers of Danab (special) forces died and two others were wounded. A U.S. officer was seriously wounded,” Mohamed Ahmed Sabriye, director of communications of Jubbaland state palace, told Reuters by phone. One of the Danab soldiers wounded in the attack subsequently died from his injuries.
U.S. Africa Command spokesman Air Force Colonel Christopher Karns said on September 7 that one U.S. soldier suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the attack but was in stable condition. At least one al-Shabaab fighter was killed during the attack, Karns said in a statement. He added that the U.S. military assessed that the incident also involved mortar fire.
Al-Shabaab has waged a jihadist insurgency against Somalia’s weak central government since 2008. The al-Qaeda-linked terror group strives to establish its own rule in the country based on its own interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
According to a Washington Examiner report on Monday penned by a former Pentagon official, Somalia’s current intelligence chief maintains close ties to both al-Shabaab and the al-Qaeda-affiliate Al Ittihad Al Islamiya, U.S. and U.N.-designated terrorist organization.