In December, U.S. President Donald Trump made an announced that ISIS had been defeated in Syria, and called for all troops in the region to return home. Following that, Trump also said he would be withdrawing 5,000 troops, nearly half, of those deployed in Afghanistan.
Now it seems the president is going one step further, as it would appear that the Pentagon is preparing to withdraw troops from Somalia as well, according to a report by NBC News.
Two senior officials confirmed to the network that they would be “scaling back” the military presence in the African country, as well as cutting down on the airstrikes that have already claimed the lives of a number of al-Shabab’s senior operatives in Somalia.
The decision is apparently reflective of the fact that the U.S. no longer feels that al-Shabab poses a threat to the western nation, even though the group is still considered to be dangerous within Somalia and to its neighboring countries.
“Not every nasty character out there is a threat to the U.S.,” said an anonymous official familiar with the decision. “Do we want to do the Somali government’s job for it?”
With these withdrawals taking place all over the world, some officials are concerned that the move will “create a dangerous opening for al Qaeda, ISIS, and other extremists to carve out sanctuaries and launch terrorist attacks.”
Defense Department spokesperson Navy Cmdr. Candice Tresch issued a statement about the decision, assuring that the U.S. continues to “support the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to degrade al-Shabab.”
This comes after Somalia benefited from more U.S. troops being sent over shortly after Trump took his seat in the White House. The president also gave them the authority to call in major airstrikes in the region should the need arise.
One senior official has attributed the sudden withdrawal of troops to the work of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned just hours after Trump’s announcements about ISIS in Syria and troops in Afghanistan.
“I would say we’re running out of targets,” a government official said, referencing the fact that many insurgents have already been killed as a result of the U.S. presence in Somalia.
Current data suggests there are around 500 U.S. personnel in the country, which will likely lead to a quicker withdrawal than that of Syria and Afghanistan with the thousands stationed there. Officials have not specified if any of those people will be remaining in Somalia on the ground, or when exactly the withdrawal will be taking place. It is likely the CIA will be taking over if airstrikes are required to deal with militants once the troops have gone home.
And the U.S. is not the only one planning to remove its forces from Somalia. The African Union force, which has 20,000 troops stationed in the country at the moment, has recently announced a plan to hand over all control to the Somali army within the next year.