Some 2,500 U.S. Marines have been deployed off the coast of Somalia to provide support in the pullout of the estimated 800 American soldiers stationed there.
Somalia has been targeted by terrorists from the al-Shabaab rebel organization, Military.com reported this week quoting information from the U.S. Africa Command.
The USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship and accompanying combat vessels arrived off the HOA on Monday, 16 days after outgoing President Donald Trump authorized the withdrawal of nearly all American forces who had been in Somalia for years helping the government fight the Al-Shabaab insurgents.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the Presidential mandate to “reposition the majority of U.S. personnel and assets out of Somalia” by early next year did not suggest a change in U.S. foreign policy. “We’ll continue to deter violent extremist groups that pose a threat to our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic edge in great power,” the statement said.
American forces stationed in Somalia mainly advise and train the country’s local armed forces as they battle al-Qaida’s biggest affiliate, Al-Shabaab. The U.S. military also conducts air assaults against the rebel group as well as local ISIS affiliates in Somalia, killing a top Al-Shabaab commander in a targeted strike in September.
A small number of U.S. troops is estimated to remain in Somalia to protect American diplomatic presence in the nation, AFRICOM said in a media release.
“To be clear, the U.S. is not pulling out or disengaging from East Africa. We remain committed to helping our African partners establish a more secure future,” U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM commander, said.
U.S. Major Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander of the withdrawal operation dubbed Joint Task Force-Quartz, said the arrival of the naval armada demonstrates the U.S. resolve “to support our partners and protect our forces through this transition.”
The U.S. move came as Trump seeks to wind down American military engagements overseas during his final weeks in office.
Jet Encila, btimesonline