On Thursday, a Pentagon official said that the Trump administration’s withdrawal of about 700 troops from Somalia to other countries in East Africa “probably” has “significant downsides.”
“From my perspective, there is probably significant downsides to the pullout from the perspective of cost and effectiveness,” Christopher Maier, the acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Biden administration is currently reviewing its counterterrorism policies. “That’s my initial look, and this will have to be an interagency look,” Maier said. His comments suggest that there are people in the administration that would like to see the troops that left Somalia to go back in.
Most of the 700 troops President Trump ordered out of Somalia moved to neighboring Djibouti and Kenya, where US drones are based that carry out airstrikes in the region. The Pentagon stressed that the reshuffling of troops would not affect US operations and continued bombing Somalia after the withdrawal, although US Africa Command has not reported any airstrikes so far in Biden’s presidency.
The last airstrike reported in Somalia by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) took place on January 19th, President Trump’s last full day in office. While AFRICOM has not reported any airstrikes since January, it’s possible that the CIA is still conducting drone strikes and raids in the country.
Trump significantly escalated the war in Somalia by sending regular troops to the country for the first time in decades and loosening the rules of engagement. In 2020 alone, Trump bombed Somalia more than George W Bush and Barack Obama combined.