U.S. Africa Command stood up a task force and began withdrawing forces from Somalia, while at the same time conducting a live-fire exercise to show that American airpower will remain active in the country despite the move.
AFRICOM activated Joint Task Force-Quartz on Dec. 19 to oversee the repositioning of troops from Somalia to other bases in the region—called Operation Octave Quartz. The task force, commanded by Special Operations Command-Africa boss USAF Maj. Gen. Dagvin R.M. Anderson, comes after the Dec. 4 order from President Donald J. Trump to move almost all personnel and assets from the East African nation.
“To be clear, the U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from East Africa,” AFRICOM boss Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said in a statement. “We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. We also remain capable of striking al-Shabab at the time and place of our choosing—they should not test us.”
To prove that point, an AC-130W Stinger II has been flying air operations over Somalia as part of the operation. Video posted of the operations show the aircraft firing on a live fire range in Somalia on Dec. 16.
“We will execute this mission swiftly, methodically, and with additional forces to protect both our partners and U.S. forces,” Anderson said in a release. “Enemies should expect continued pressure and swift retribution if they choose to attack.”
U.S. forces will operate from nearby bases outside the country, such as Manda Bay in Kenya and the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel Woody Williams, and will also conduct longer distance operations from the hub at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. There are between 650 and 800 troops stationed in the country.
The order to withdraw comes after a review of combatant commands across the globe, with the goal of bringing more forces back to the U.S. AFRICOM is also evaluating locations for its headquarters, following the announcement that it will be moved from Germany as part of a large-scale drawdown there.