STUTTGART, Germany. December 19th, 2020. President Trump’s desire to get all troops out of Somalia, as World at Large reported in October, seems to have been fulfilled. However as a recent statement from AFRICOM Chief Army Gen. Stephen Townsend reveals, the 700 troops will simply be moved to other bases.
“To be clear, the U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from East Africa. We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. We also remain capable of striking Al-Shabaab at the time and place of our choosing—they should not test us,” said Townsend in a statement.
Most of the troops are special operators there to train the Somali Army, all of whom are now stationed there as part of a Trump Africa strategy.
Contrary to his message regarding other terror wars in 2016, namely that they were a waste of American blood and treasure, Somalia was never a place where Trump seemed to mind sending a little metal. He relaxed the rules of engagement limiting bombing attacks, and the subsequent increase in strikes amounted to 63 in 2019 alone.
Townsend states specifically that East Africa will remain within AFRICOM’s theater of war, and therefore the redeployment, titled “Operation Octave Quartz,” can only have two destinations, Kenya or Djibouti.
Somali military sources told U.S. reporters that the move would undermine trust in the U.S. and leave Somali forces vulnerable.
“This is being dictated by politics,” Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, commander of the Somali Danab Brigade, said at the time, according to Task and Purpose. “It 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”.
The targets of U.S. AFRICOM since establishing counter terrorism efforts in Somalia have been al-Shabaab, literally “The Youth,” the militant wing of a former political party called the ICU which took over in the anarchic vacuum left after the U.S.-backed invasion of the country by Ethiopia.
Once the ICU were deposed by US and Ethiopian forces, the only wing of the former south-Somali government were The Youth, who subsequently declared allegiance to al-Qaeda in order to potentially attract foreign fighters and support.
It could be true that the move is directed by politics. While the Global War on Terror wasn’t of any significant interest to Trump, scaling it back wasn’t either. In his last National Security Strategy, Trump defense officials focused more on what they called “Great Power Competition” — namely that Africa is a battlefield of economics and political allegiances on which the U.S. will compete with China.
Indeed, reporters at Antiwar noted that drawdowns in troop numbers across the world during the Trump Administration has been partially influenced by the lame-duck’s aggression towards Russia and China, and thusly only redeployments to regions more sensitive to the great power competition strategy.
Continue exploring this topic — Trump Allegedly Wants Troops Out of Somalia — America’s Forgotten Terror Battleground