US decision to withdraw troops dismays some Somalis

US decision to withdraw troops dismays some Somalis
US Marines file into an amphibious vehicle for evacuation from Mogadishu, Somalia, after a bloody two-year UN peacekeeping mission. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 06 December 2020

US decision to withdraw troops dismays some Somalis

US decision to withdraw troops dismays some Somalis
  • The US program to expand Danab to 3,000 men was supposed to continue until 2027, Sheikh said, but its future is unclear

ADDIS ABABA: US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Somalia in the waning days of his presidency triggered dismay on Saturday from some Somalis, who appealed to the incoming US president to reverse the 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,” Sen. Ayub Ismail Yusuf told Reuters in a statement, referring to the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab insurgency.
“US troops have made a huge contribution and had great impact on the training and operational effectiveness of Somali soldiers,” said Yusuf, a member of Somalia’s Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
He tagged US President-elect Joe Biden in a tweet criticizing the decision.
The Somali government could not immediately be reached for comment early on Saturday to Friday’s decision to withdraw almost all the roughly 700 US troops by Jan. 15.
Somalia’s fragile internationally backed government is due to hold parliamentary elections this month and national elections in early February, a precursor to the planned drawdown of the 17,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force.
US troops have been in Somalia, mostly 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.
Danab punches above its weight because regular forces are often poorly trained and equipped, frequently desert their posts or become enmeshed in power struggles between the national and regional governments.
If the withdrawal is permanent, “it will have a huge toll on counterterrorism efforts,” said Col. Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, who served for three years until 2019 as the Danab commander.
He fought alongside US forces, he said, and during his command two Americans and more than a hundred of his own men had died. Both US and Somali forces opposed the withdrawal, he said.
The US program to expand Danab to 3,000 men was supposed to continue until 2027, Sheikh said, but its future is unclear.
Airstrikes will likely continue from bases in Kenya and Djibouti, which could also provide a launchpad for cross-border operations. Rights group Amnesty International says the airstrikes have killed at least 16 civilians in the past three years.
The US withdrawal comes at a turbulent time in the region. Ethiopia, which is a major troop contributor to the peacekeeping forces and has thousands more troops in Somalia bilaterally, is distracted by an internal conflict that broke out last month. It has disarmed hundreds of its peacekeepers already.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, but the entry of the peacekeeping force in 2008 helped incubate fledgling government structures that allowed for gradual reforms of the military, such as a biometric system to pay soldiers and the formation of Danab.
But many problems with the Somali military remain, including corruption and political interference. Perhaps a withdrawal will force Somalia to confront them, said Sheikh. Or perhaps it will make them worse.


Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint

Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint
Updated 17 January 2021

Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint

Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint
WASHINGTON: A heavily armed man has been arrested in Washington at a security checkpoint near the US Capitol, where President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated next week, authorities said.
Wesley Allen Beeler, of Virginia, was taken into custody after police found him with a handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, shotgun shells and a magazine for the gun, according to a police report obtained by AFP.
He had tried to pass through the checkpoint using fake inaugural credentials, CNN reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Washington is under a high state of alert ahead of Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Five people died in the assault, including a police officer.
Security officials have warned that armed pro-Trump extremists, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed in Washington and streets have been blocked off downtown with concrete barriers.
The National Mall, which is normally packed with people every four years for presidential inaugurations, has been declared off-limits at the request of the Secret Service, which ensures the security of the president.