The American-trained Somali commando force Danab is usually deployed to counter the Qaeda-linked group Al Shabab: liberating areas it controls, ending its attacks on government offices and beachside restaurants, and targeting senior Shabab operatives.
But with President Trump expected to withdraw American troops from Somalia, the highly specialized Somali force will be left in limbo, jeopardizing whatever security gains it helped achieve in recent years, officials and observers said. The U.S. military presence has been heavily focused on training, equipping and supporting the elite 850-soldier Somali unit.
“The United States troops and the Danab unit they have trained are the ones who have taken a critical lead in disrupting terrorism activities,” said Hussein Sheikh-Ali, chairman of the Hiraal Institute research group and a former national security adviser to the Somali president. “If the mentor leaves, the unit might just literally collapse.”
Following the Pentagon’s formal announcement on Tuesday that the United States will reduce its military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, a former Green Beret and top counterterrorism official, is also expected to approve in the coming days plans to remove most if not all of the more than 700 American troops in Somalia conducting training and counterterrorism missions.
If the United States pulls out of Somalia now, experts say it will not only present another huge challenge for the Somali government but also exert additional pressure on security agencies’ ability to tackle the threat from Al Shabab. Continue reading