US pulls out 700 military personnel from war-torn Somalia
Marines load into a V-22 Osprey on the flight deck of the USS Makin Island (LHD8) as they conduct sea operations off the coast of Somalia
The US has sent a group of naval ships to Somalia to ensure the withdrawal of around 700 troops from the war-torn country. This could put a strain on the fight against the regional terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Nearly 5,000 sailors and marines arrived off the Somali coast earlier this week to escort US military personnel to "other locations in East Africa," the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
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A collection of amphibious vessels, the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, and a quick-response force, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, were part of Operation Octave Quartz.
President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia on December 4, which coincides with the cessation of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command (Africom), said the relocation of troops should not be viewed as a US withdrawal from the region.
“To be clear, the US is not pulling out of East Africa or pulling out of East Africa. We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. “He added," We are still able to beat al-Shabaab at the time and place we choose - they shouldn't test us. "
The US sent troops to Somalia in 2007 to fight al-Shabaab that had formed the previous year. The Pentagon established several semi-permanent bases across the country that were used for air strikes and the training of local forces.
People gather at the site of a major explosion near a checkpoint in Mogadishu
In 2019, U.S. warplanes launched a record number of air strikes in Somalia, killing hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters. Most of the 700 troops stationed in Somalia will be transferred to Kenya or Djibouti, where the US has its only permanent military base in Africa.
While the US will be able to carry out cross-border drone strikes, the reduced presence is likely to encourage the violent Islamist uprising that has so far proven impossible to defeat.
"It would not be surprising if al-Shabaab intensified the attacks since the announcement and in the coming weeks," said a European diplomat working in Mogadishu on condition of anonymity.
The withdrawal contributes to the redistribution of Ethiopian troops who fought against al-Shabaab, to an internal conflict in the Tigray region of the country.
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