The U.S. military was in Somalia, mainly supporting the Somali special forces called the Danab in operations against al Shabaab. If the withdrawal is permanent, “it will have a significant impact on counter-terrorism efforts,” said Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh.
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Somalia in the run-up to his presidency has caused confusion on Saturday for some Somalis, who have called on the incoming US president to reverse the decision.
“The U.S. military has made a significant contribution to the training and effectiveness of the Somali military,” said Yusuf, a member of the Somali Foreign Affairs Committee.
He tagged US President-elect Joe Biden in a tweet criticizing the decision.
The Somali government was not immediately available for comment on Saturday morning until Friday’s decision to withdraw almost all 700 U.S. troops on January 15.
Somalia’s weakened international government is expected to hold parliamentary elections this month and national elections in early February, a precursor to the planned deployment of 17,000 African Union peacekeepers.
The U.S. military was in Somalia, mainly supporting the Somali special forces known as Danab in operations against al Shabaab, whose attacks in countries such as Kenya and Uganda have killed hundreds of civilians, including Americans.
Supporting Somali forces
Danab strikes above his weight because regular troops are accustomed to being trained and poorly equipped, often leaving posts or being embroiled in a power struggle between national and regional governments.
If the withdrawal is permanent, “it will have a significant impact on counter-terrorism efforts,” said Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, who served three years until 2019 as governor of Danab.
He fought alongside US troops, saying that during his command, two Americans and more than a hundred men were killed. Both the U.S. and Somali forces opposed the withdrawal, he said.
The US plan to increase Danab to 3,000 men was due to continue until 2027, the Sheikh said, but his future was uncertain.
Airlines will probably continue to fly from Kenya and Dibouti centers, which could also provide a launchpad for border operations. Amnesty International says a plane crash has killed at least 16 people in the past three years.
The US withdrawal comes at a difficult time in the region. Ethiopia, a major military donor to peacekeeping forces with thousands of Somali soldiers collectively, is plagued by internal strife last month. It has destroyed hundreds of peacekeepers.
Somalia has been embroiled in a civil war since 1991, but the advent of the peacekeeping force in 2008 helped to overthrow government structures that had recently allowed the gradual transformation of the military, such as the biometric fundraising program and the construction of the Danab.
But many problems with the Somali military exist, including corruption and political interference. Perhaps the withdrawal will force Somalia to face them, the Sheikh said. Or maybe it will make them worse.