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Trump Orders Most Troops From Somalia  12/05 09:37

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon said Friday it is pulling most U.S. troops 
out of Somalia on President Donald Trump's orders, continuing a post-election 
push by Trump to shrink U.S. involvement in counterterrorism missions abroad.

   Without providing details, the Pentagon said in a short statement that "a 
majority" of U.S. troops and assets in Somalia will be withdrawn in early 2021. 
There are currently about 700 troops in that Horn of Africa nation, training 
and advising local forces in an extended fight against the extremist group 
al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaida.

   Trump recently ordered troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he was 
expected to withdraw some or all troops from Somalia. Gen. Mark Milley, 
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said on Wednesday that the future 
structure of the U.S. military presence in Somalia was still in debate.

   The adjusted U.S. presence, Milley said, would amount to "a relatively small 
footprint, relatively low cost in terms of number of personnel and in terms of 
money." He provided no specifics but stressed that the U.S. remained concerned 
about the threat posed by al-Shabab, which he called "an extension of 
al-Qaida," the extremist group that planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the 
United States from Afghanistan.

   "They do have some reach and they could if left unattended conduct 
operations against not only U.S. interests in the region but also against the 
homeland," he said. "So they require attention." Noting that Somalia remains a 
dangerous place for Americans, he said that a CIA officer was killed there 
recently.

   The acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller, made a brief visit to 
Somalia last week and met with U.S. troops.

   Depending on what remains of the U.S. presence in Somalia when he takes 
office Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden could reverse Trump's drawdown or 
make other adjustments to reflect his counterterrorism priorities. The U.S. 
military also has a presence in neighboring Djibouti on the Bab al-Mandab 
Strait.

   Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, said in a written 
statement that the U.S. contingent in Somalia will "decrease significantly," 
but he offered no specifics. "U.S. forces will remain in the region and our 
tasks and commitment to partners remain unchanged," he said.

   "This action is not a withdrawal and an end to our efforts but a reposition 
to continue our efforts in East Africa," he added.

   Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, criticized the Trump pullback in 
Somalia as a "surrender to al-Qaida and a gift of China." Langevin is chairman 
of the House Armed Services Committee's Intelligence and Emerging Threats and 
Capabilities Subcommittee.

   "When U.S. forces leave Somalia in response to today's order, it becomes 
harder for diplomats and aid workers to help people resolve conflicts without 
violence and loss of life," Langevin said. "With upcoming elections in Somalia 
and conflict raging in neighboring Ethiopia, abandoning our partners could not 
come at a worse time."

   Langevin said China will use the opportunity to build its influence in the 
Horn of Africa.

   The Pentagon said the drawdown in Somalia does not mark the end of U.S. 
counterterrorism efforts there.

   "As a result of this decision, some forces may be reassigned outside of East 
Africa," it said. "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."

 
 
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