A US Naval Armada and 2,500 Marines Are Off Somalia to Cover Troop Withdrawal
The US has amassed naval forces with around 2,500 Marines on board off the Somali coast to cover the withdrawal of an estimated 800 US troops from the Horn of Africa country hit by terrorist attacks by the al-Shabaab insurgent group, US Africa was command said Tuesday.
The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which carried members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived outside Somalia on Monday to support Operation Octave Quartz and the safe withdrawal of the "majority" of US troops from the East African country AFRICOM said in a press release. A small number of troops are expected to remain behind to protect the US diplomatic presence in the country.
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Citing defense officials, the U.S. Naval Institute News also reported that the aircraft carrier Nimitz and its strike group, consisting of the guided missile cruisers Princeton and Philippine Sea and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Sterett, are also in the general area to guard the withdrawal operation.
The ARG, consisting of the amphibious assault ship Makin Island and the amphibious transport dockers San Diego and Somerset, was joined by the expeditionary logistics vessel Hershel "Woody" Williams to "protect our forces through this transition" Major General of the Air Force, Dagvin Anderson, commander the Joint Task Force-Quartz, which oversees the operation.
"This is a great example of how the United States can quickly pool its combat capabilities to respond to emerging issues," said Anderson, who has double hats as Special Operations Command-Africa commander, in the AFRICOM news release.
The withdrawing troops will be repositioned in neighboring countries to be available for possible counter-terrorism missions against al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab, according to AFRICOM Army Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend.
In a statement on Saturday, Townsend said, "To be clear, the US is not pulling out of or withdrawing from East Africa. We continue to work to help our African partners build a more secure future."
The Pentagon announced on December 4 that President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of Somali troops. Trump had previously ordered the number of US troops in Afghanistan to be reduced from 4,500 to 2,500 by January 15, and from 3,000 to 2,500 in Iraq.
- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
Related: AFRICOM sends alert to Al-Shabaab as US forces begin to withdraw from Somalia
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