Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Somalia in the waning days of his presidency has triggered dismay from some Somalis, who appealed to the incoming President Joe Biden to reverse the decision.
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has between 650 to 800 troops on average in Somalia, Al Jazeera reported in November, including special forces helping to train Somalia’s army.
The Pentagon said Trump ordered a withdrawal of “the majority” of US troops “by early 2021”.
The Somali government has not yet made any comments on Friday’s decision.
“The US decision to pull troops out of Somalia at this critical stage in the successful fight against al-Shabab and their global terrorist network is extremely regrettable,” Senator Ayub Ismail Yusuf told Reuters news agency in a statement, referring to the al-Qaeda-linked group.
“US troops have made a huge contribution and had great impact on the training and operational effectiveness of Somali soldiers,” added Yusuf.
He tagged Biden in a tweet criticising the decision.
Somalia’s fragile internationally backed government is due to hold parliamentary elections this month and national elections in early February.
US troops have mostly been supporting Somali special forces known as Danab in operations against al-Shabab, whose attacks in nations like Kenya and Uganda have killed hundreds of civilians, including Americans.
If the withdrawal is permanent, “it will have a huge toll on counterterrorism efforts,” according to Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, who served as the Danab commander for three years until 2019.
The US programme to expand Danab to 3,000 men was supposed to continue until 2027, Sheikh said, but its future is now unclear.
William Lawrence, from the American University in Washington, DC, said Trump’s move would hurt American interests in eastern Africa.