Last month, US officials announced President Trump would be pulling a significant number of US troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq by January. Now, another country joins the list, in a different part of the world. The Pentagon said Friday that nearly all of the 700 American troops in Somalia will be yanked out of the country by next month, in what the Guardian calls "the latest in a series of short-notice withdrawals" as Trump's time in office winds down. The New York Times notes that most of the troops in Somalia are special ops forces that go on counterterrorism missions and conduct training, and that they'll mostly all be pulled out of the nation by Jan. 15, just five days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Per a Pentagon statement, some of the troops will be "repositioned" in neighboring countries to Somalia, like Kenya, while others will be taken out of the region altogether.
The move is part of a Trump promise that stretches back to 2016 to remove the US from "endless wars" around the world, per the BBC. But there are concerns, even from prominent Trump congressional allies, that the timing is bad, as it may now be difficult to keep upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Somalia safe from al-Shabab and Islamic State extremists. One Somali senator calls the decision "extremely regrettable," while a Somali special forces commander says the move "will have a huge toll on counterterrorism efforts," per the Guardian. The Pentagon insists US interests in the region will continue to be safeguarded. "The US is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa," it says in its statement. "We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition." (Read more Somalia stories.)