The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has ordered the Department of Defense and the United States Africa Command to “reposition the majority of personnel and assets out of Somalia by early 2021.”
The U.S. forces have been conducting joint military operations including training, with AMISOM and Somali forces to eradicate the Al Shabaab terrorist threat in the Horn of Africa.
The U.S. Department of defence said in a statement on Friday night that “The U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa. We remain committed to our African partners and enduring support through a whole-of-government approach.”
It’s yet to be established how Trump’s decision will affect UPDF operation in Somali.
The Ugandan armed forces control the largest area in Somalia.
They are deployed in Sector One in Benadir,(has 16 districts) Banadir, and Lower Shabelle regions having pushed Al Shabaab militants for over 200km away from Mogadishu city.
Since 2006, Washington’s principal focus with regard to Somalia has been on reducing the threat posed by al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist insurgent group seeking to overthrow the federal government.
Successive US administrations have used military and political means to achieve this objective.
Militarily, the US has provided training, equipment and funds to an African Union operation, lent bilateral support to Somalia’s neighbours, helped build elements of the reconstituted Somali National Army (SNA), and conducted military operations, most frequently in the form of airstrikes.
Politically, Washington has tried to enable the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to provide its own security, while implementing diplomatic, humanitarian and development efforts in parallel.
The U.S. now says, “While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy.”
Washington said it would continue to “degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition.”
As a result of Trump’s decision, some forces may be reassigned outside of East Africa, the Department of Defence announced.
“However, the remaining forces will be repositioned from Somalia into neighboring countries in order to allow cross-border operations by both U.S. and partner forces to maintain pressure against violent extremist organizations operating in Somalia,” the statement seen by ChimpReports reads in part.
These countries were not mentioned but Somalia is bounded by the Gulf of Aden to the north, by the Indian Ocean to the east, by Kenya and Ethiopia to the west, and by Djibouti to the northwest.
The U.S. said it would “retain the capability to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia, and collect early warnings and indicators regarding threats to the homeland.”
In January 2020 Somalia briefly made US media headlines when three US security personnel (one service member and two Department of Defense contractors) were killed in an attack by al-Shabaab on the Manda Bay naval base in Kenya.
This was the latest in a long-running spate of al-Shabaab attacks, including, in February 2016, a laptop bomb on a flight departing Mogadishu; the massive truck bomb in central Mogadishu in October 2017; and attacks on Nairobi’s DusitD2 hotel in January 2019, and on the US base at Baledogle in September of that year.
In a statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee shortly after the Manda Bay attack, General Townsend described al-Shabaab as ‘the largest and most kinetically active al-Qa’ida network in the world’,
and as being the ‘most dangerous to US interests today’.
The US counterterrorism effort in Somalia began in the 1990s with the search for prominent figures associated with Al-Qaeda and those responsible for attacking the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
From 2006 there was the added fear that al-Shabaab would become the de facto government in south-central Somalia, enabling the group to spread instability across the wider Horn of Africa region, as well as potentially threatening shipping lanes off the Somali coast.