Trump orders most U.S. troops out of Somalia

The nearly 800 troops stationed inside the East African country were seen as a crucial bulwark against al-Shabab, the extremist group tied to Al Qaeda.

President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of most of the U.S. troops stationed in Somalia, Pentagon officials said Friday.

The nearly 800 troops represent a small footprint but are seen as a crucial bulwark against African-based extremist groups, including al-Shabab.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the U.S. is not “withdrawing or disengaging from Africa.”

“While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition.”

The statement said some forces may be reassigned outside of East Africa. The remaining will be shifted to neighboring countries.

The troops are expected to leave the country by early next year.

In 2017, the Pentagon announced it was sending dozens of troops to the African nation to train the Somali National Army. While the U.S. military had a small number of counterterrorism forces that operated at times in Somalia before 2017, it marked the first time conventional forces would operate in the country since the U.S. pulled out in 1993.

The U.S. presence has grown to between 700 and 800 troops at any given time.

The announcement comes three weeks after acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said the U.S. is reducing troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 by mid-January.