President Donald Trump has ordered the complete withdrawal of US troops from Somalia by January 15, 2021 – five days before he will hand over power to President-elect Joe Biden. The order to pull out US assets in the African country came at very short notice, even though the president had also ordered the withdrawal of almost 20,000 US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – leaving a paltry 2,500 soldiers in each country.
While a few political supporters have hailed the president’s move as proper, given Trump’s earlier campaign promise to end America’s “endless wars” in foreign countries, his critics said he is leaving the burden of maintaining the balance of power to US foreign interests to Joe Biden. However, the Pentagon stated that most of the troops will return to the United States while some will be repositioned in neighboring countries such as Kenya.
“The US is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa,” the Pentagon stated. “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 US 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.”
Many Somalis have condemned Trump’s order to withdraw US troops from the country, saying it will embolden the Al-Shabaab and their global terrorist network to advance upon the country to reclaim more territories. A member of Somali’s senate foreign affairs committee, Senator Ayub Ismail Yusuf, said the contributions of US troops have improved the operational efficiency of Somali soldiers in their onslaught against Al-Shabaab terrorists, and that pulling out the troops will be dampening.
“The US decision to pull troops out of Somalia at this critical stage in the successful fight against al-Shabaab and their global terrorist network is extremely regrettable,” Ayub Ismail Yusuf said. “US troops have made a huge contribution and had a great impact on the training and operational effectiveness of Somali soldiers.”
American soldiers have tactically trained Somali troops, the Danab, to repel religious extremists and terrorist groups. Al-Shabaab has been much incapacitated with the presence of American troops, and they have always sought ways to displace the troops and regain control of several regions in Somalia.
The withdrawal of the US soldiers will be seen as a sort of victory by the extremists, a surrender to Al-Qaeda, and a gift to China, said Jim Langevin, the Democratic Chair of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats.