President Trump could withdraw most US troops from Somalia as part of his effort to bring soldiers home from conflict zones before January 20th. Sources told The New York Times the plan is to bring “virtually all” of the more than 700 troops stationed in Somalia home.
US officials also told Reuters that Trump is planning a Somalia withdrawal. The sources said Trump might withdraw “nearly all” of the troops in the African country.
The Somalia pullout was expected to come with troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced on Tuesday that the Pentagon is carrying out an order to bring troop numbers down from 2,500 in both Iraq and Afghanistan by January 15th, but made no mention of Somalia.
President Trump significantly escalated the war against al-Shabab during his time in office. Most US troops in the country were sent there by the Trump administration to assist in training Somalia’s military.
The US wages war against al-Shabab mostly by drone strikes. President Trump loosened the rules of engagement for the drone war in Somalia and dropped a record number of bombs on the country.
In 2019, the US conducted 63 airstrikes in Somalia, the most in a single year. The first seven months of 2020 saw more US airstrikes in Somalia than were conducted during both the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama combined.
Officials told the Times that the withdrawal would not apply to US forces stationed in Kenya and Djibouti, where the US drones carrying out airstrikes on Somalia are based. Keeping these bases would maintain Washington’s ability to attack al-Shabab.