- launches two airstrike in Somalia shortly days after troop pullout
ADDIS ABEBA – The U.S. military says its troop withdrawal from Somalia is complete, in one of the last actions of President Donald Trump’s presidency.
Some experts have warned that the withdrawal of military personnel, estimated to be 650 to 800, comes at the worst possible time for Somalia.
Al-Shabaab extremist group continues to attack military and civilian targets even in the capital, Mogadishu as Somalia plans hold a national election within a month.
The U.S. troops trained and supported Somali forces, including its elite special forces, in counter-terror operations.
They are being moved to neighboring Kenya and Djibouti, home of the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, but U.S. Africa Command spokesman Col. Chris Karns would not say how many are going where, according to Associated press’s report.
Karns said the operation enters its “next phase of periodic engagement with Somali security forces” without going into details.
In a statement Africom issued on Tuesday, its top Commander, Gen. Stephen Townsend, said US’s strategy in East Africa will now “relies on partnerships” following his five-day long visit to three east African nations – Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya.
Africom officials admits terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab, with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 fighters, will remain to pose a security threat to the sub region.
Some say other global powers including China and Russia may try to fill in the void left by the US’s latest move and expand their access and influence in the sub region.
However, the Command’s Senior Enlisted Leader, Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, said the relocated US forces “remain poised to respond to threats, deter aggression and support partners while advancing U.S. and regional security”.
Thresher also boasted the U.S. military forces “are trusted and respected by our African partners and help advance mutual interests and security every day”.
Hours after Africom’s general left the sub-region, the US Air Forces conducted two airstrikes in the vicinities of Jamaame and Deb Scinnele, Somalia, and killed three al-Shabaab operatives, according to Africom’s statement.
“Striking these leaders disrupts al-Shabaab’s ability to attack our partners and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians with improvised explosive devices,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson said in the statement.
Africom has carried out more than 200 airstrikes in the country, mostly directed at al-Shabab fighters, over the past two years, according to reports.
Featured Image: The USS Nimitz off Somalia [Photo DefenceWeb]