The top general of U.S. Africa Command told a Senate panel on Thursday that the Trump administration’s decision to reposition troops outside of Somalia has created fresh challenges in the fight against al-Shabab terrorists.

“There’s no denying that the repositioning of forces out of Somalia has introduced new layers of complexity and risk,” Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“Our understanding of what’s happening in Somalia is less now than it was when we were there on the ground, physically located with our partners,” he told senators at a briefing to review the U.S. military posture in Africa, as well as where U.S. Central Command operates in the Middle East and parts of Asia.

In early December, former President Donald Trump ordered the roughly 700 U.S. troops in Somalia leave the country. Troops were there to assist the East African nation’s military with its battle against al-Shabab terrorists.

AFRICOM announced in mid-January that the withdrawal was complete. Most of the troops were relocated to neighboring countries to continue carrying out the mission to defend against the al-Qaida-aligned terrorist network.

Townsend said Thursday that a “small footprint” of about 100 troops remain in Mogadishu, the nation’s capital, where their work is tied to the embassy.

By SARAH CAMMARATA


Cammarata.Sarah@stripes.com Twitter: @sarahjcamm


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