The United States military has completed withdrawing troops from Somalia, according to the U.S. Africa Command.
AFRICOM spokesperson Colonel Christopher P. Karns confirmed to VOA Somali that the repositioning of the troops was completed ahead of the deadline in a presidential directive last December ordering the troop removal by mid-January.
The number of U.S. military personnel in Somalia ranged from 650 to 800 people. U.S. troops supported and mentored an elite Somali unit known as the Danab “lightning” brigade.
Karns said a “very limited” U.S. presence remains in Somalia.
“For force protection considerations, I won't go into roles, responsibilities, locations, or the very limited remaining U.S. presence for force protection and operational reasons,” he said.
“The president's directive has been carried out,” he added.
U.S. military officials earlier said most of the personnel will be repositioned in the region, but Karns would not provide a breakdown of where U.S. forces have been moved to in Africa “due to ongoing operations.”
AFRICOM said the repositioning was finished a couple of days early while still applying pressure to al-Shabab in the process. On January 13, the day of the completion, AFRICOM reported the third airstrike against al-Shabab this year. The strike in the vicinity of Buulo Falaay in the Bay region killed one al-Shabab member and destroyed a compound, according to AFRICOM.
The U.S. vowed to continue to engage Somali forces and maintain pressure against al-Shabab.
Karns said the operation continues into its “next phase of periodic engagement with Somali security forces.”
“Our focus very much remains fixed and focused on al-Shabab,” Karns said. “It would not be wise for them to test us.”
On Sunday, the al-Shabab militant group attacked a convoy of Somali forces escorting a regional governor and military officers in the vicinity of Tihsile village about 50 kilometers west of Mogadishu. The convoy was on its way to Ballidogle airport where many of the U.S. personnel training Somali forces had been based. Several soldiers were wounded, according to Somali security officials who could not be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media.