President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of US military forces from Somalia, a move that comes just two weeks after asking the Pentagon to reduce the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said Mr. Trump ordered the pullout by early 2021, but stressed that the move did not mean the United States was disengaging from Africa.
A US defense official said there were around 700 US troops in Somalia, where they helped the country fight al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.
“We remain committed to our African partners and to sustained support through a whole-of-government approach,” the Pentagon said in a statement Friday. “We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring that we maintain our strategic advantage in high power competition.”
Following his loss to Joe Biden in the US election, Mr. Trump fired Mark Esper, his Secretary of Defense, in part because he wanted to reduce opposition inside the Pentagon to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He replaced Mr. Esper with Chris Miller, Acting Defense Secretary, who issued the withdrawal order.
Mr Trump has long said the United States should not have so many troops overseas, especially in combat zones. He even threatened to withdraw troops from allies like Japan and South Korea, in part for reasons of cost.
He has been criticized repeatedly during his four years for threatening to withdraw troops from other countries. Jim Mattis, its first secretary of defense, resigned two years ago after Mr. Trump abruptly ordered a withdrawal from Syria.
This week, congressional negotiators decided to block Mr. Trump from pursuing a plan to withdraw about a third of the 34,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.
The restriction was included in a $ 740 billion defense bill expected to pass Congress. Mr Trump has vowed to veto the bill on other issues – including legal protections for social media companies – but lawmakers could overrule that veto with a two-thirds majority at a time in the House and in the Senate.
Lawmakers wrote in the legislation that the presence of US forces in Germany was a “strong deterrent” against Russian aggression and that downsizing US troops would harm national security and weaken the NATO alliance .
“Reducing the number of members of the US armed forces in Germany during a period of increasing threats in Europe would be a serious policy error,” lawmakers said in the bill.
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