The Pentagon recently announced plans of shifting American troops from Somalia to elsewhere in east Africa.
In a statement, Army General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed the shift of troops. Yet, his statement also contained a warning to the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
“To be clear, the U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from east Africa,” Townsend’s statement read. “We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. We also remain capable of striking al-Shabaab at the time and place of our choosing — they should not test us.”
There are currently about 700 American troops in Somalia. However, not all of those troops will be moved.
USAF Colonel Stephen Karns, the spokesman for AFRICOM, confirmed to the media that a limited number of troops will remain in the country. He wouldn’t give specifics due to security concerns.
Special Operations troops have been training Somalian SOF troops of the Danab Battalion at Baledogle Airfield. At least some of the American special operators are expected to be retained there as they continue to work by, with, and through the Danab troops that are fighting al-Shabaab. American Special Operations troops are also directly involved in the fight against al-Shabaab. American drone operations provide surveillance and strike capabilities against the terror group.
General Townsend also announced the activation of a joint task force, called JTF-Quartz, which will be in charge of the U.S. troops’ repositioning. As reported by Army Times, General Townsend stated that JTF Quartz will be overseen by Major General Dag Anderson, the commander of Special Operations Command Africa.
“I have just returned from visiting him at his forward headquarters in east Africa, where I met with Dag and his commanders to review their posture and plans. JTF-Quartz is ready to go,” Townsend said.
In early December, the Defense Department announced that it had been tasked by President Trump to have AFRICOM draw down the number of troops in Somalia. This aligns with drawdowns from other hot zones like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Meanwhile, the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) along with its escorts and the three-ship Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), have been operating just to the east of the Horn of Africa to handle any contingencies while the AFRICOM troops are repositioning, USNI News reported.
The USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and amphibious transport docks USS Somerset (LPD-25) and USS San Diego (LPD-22) make up the ARG that also includes the 15th MEU’s approximately 2,500 Marines. The Makin Island has a squadron of F-35 fighters onboard.
The American troops in Somalia are expected to be shifted to either the American base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti or Manda Bay in Kenya