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US troops to withdraw from Somalia

US President Donald Trump has ordered the US military to “reposition the majority of personnel and assets out of Somalia by early 2021”, the Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed on 4 December.

A Danab soldier during a patrol in July 2019. (US Navy)

A Danab soldier during a patrol in July 2019. (US Navy)

“The remaining forces will be repositioned from Somalia into neighbouring countries in order to allow cross-border operations by both US and partner forces to maintain pressure against violent extremist organisations operating in Somalia,” it said.

It added that the United States is not disengaging from Africa and remains committed to supporting local partners and maintaining its “strategic advantage in great power competition”.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) is reported to have around 700 personnel in Somalia, mostly in Mogadishu and at the Baledogle airfield, 90 km to the north west.

Baledogle is used to expand the Danab advanced infantry force into a brigade that has battalions in each of Somalia’s five federal states.

This programme is a major part of the transition plan that will see the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) hand over to the Somali National Army (SNA) in 2021, although it is currently being reformulated to take into account the slow progress that has been made in developing the SNA and degrading the Al-Shabaab militant group.

A quarterly report released by the DoD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on 25 November highlighted the importance of the Danab units, saying they are “recognised as the most capable ground assault forces in the SNA” and are conducting around 80% of the SNA’s offensive operations.

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