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Trump pulls American troops out of Somalia — will militant attacks increase in the region?

Trump pulls American troops out of Somalia — will militant attacks increase in the region?

Washington, D.C.  – The Pentagon announced recently that nearly 700 American troops in Somalia will leave the base by January 15, 2021. This is five days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Most of these special operation troops currently conduct training and counter-terrorism missions in the East African nation.

President Donald Trump’s orders to withdraw troops from Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq shed light on his desire to end military engagements against Islamist insurgent groups. Moreover, helping delicate operations in Africa and the Middle East will now become a bruised mission of the new administration in 2021. This mission has been widespread since the attacks on American soil, September 11, 2001.

Impact and debate

There is an ongoing debate within both Congress and the Pentagon about future training and counterterrorism missions. One point of friction is whether the United States should continue with murky security operations in remote countries abroad. Case-in-point, Trump’s order to withdraw troops comes at a delicate time for East African nations like Somalia.

Somalia is simultaneously preparing for parliamentary elections next month and a presidential election in February. Obviously, Trump’s actions complicate matters. The American troop withdrawal during this delicate time limits Somalia’s ability to ensure safe elections. Additionally, there is political turmoil in surrounding countries including Ethiopia. Armies in the region are battling Islamic insurgent groups.

American military personnel in a helicopter flying over Helmand Province last year. Image Credit – Jim Huylebroek

Why is it important to continue strikes on militants?

Advocates for Somalia’s U.S. counter-terrorism mission believe that it’s important to maintain pressure on the militants. This will help keep the territory safe from terrorist or insurgent attacks. Allegedly, back in 2001, Al Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks from a base in Afghanistan.

Many of Trump’s supporters, including Oklahoma Senator James M. Inhofe, have spoken against troop cuts in Somalia. According to the Pentagon, the American troops will be repositioned to Kenya. 

With the troop withdrawal, some strikes including those launched by drones will continue in Somalia. But even with continued strikes, Somalia will be unable to train local security forces without the help of American troops. There’s no word on whether the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), ambassadors, and other American diplomats will also have to withdraw.

The Pentagon claims that the U.S. will continue to have some ability to conduct counterterrorism operations in Somalia. Agency officials at the Pentagon argue that local Somali governments can protect their own territory. With the troop withdrawal coming up fast, how will Somalia protect itself without the assistance of American forces?

Thumbnail Credits : Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images (Images may be subject to copyrights)

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Afia is a lawyer, journalist, an avid traveler, an avid reader, a foodie, and an amateur singer. She enjoys instrumental music with her glass of wine 🙂

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