Afghanistan scholars said the accelerated but partial withdrawal could complicate the political choices of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his new national security team, but that it was preferable to a full withdrawal.
“A rapid reduction to 2,500 would narrow Biden’s administration options and undermine the peace talks, but not create the total upheaval of zeroing so quickly,” Laurel E. Miller, a former senior official in the Department of State that has worked on Afghan and Pakistani diplomacy Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama, said on twitter last week.
Most of the US troops in Somalia, the war-torn nation of the Horn of Africa, are special operations forces stationed at a small number of bases across the country. Their missions include training and advising the Somali army and counterterrorism troops and conducting raids to kill or capture their own Shabab militants.
Mr Trump’s push to leave Somalia before his term ends comes at a delicate time: Somalia is gearing up for next month’s legislative elections and a presidential election slated for early February. The withdrawal of US troops could complicate any ability to keep electoral rallies and voting safe from Shabab bombers. It also comes at a time of political turmoil in neighboring Ethiopia, whose army has also fought against Shabab.
The timing “couldn’t be worse,” said Brittany Brown, who worked on Somali policy in the National Security Council under the leadership of Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump. She said she supported Somalia’s withdrawal overall.
“Now is not the time to do it, because this election is really important – this one matters a lot,” said Ms Brown, now chief of staff of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization. focused on deadly conflicts. “I hope that doesn’t send Somalia back into the chaos of a failed state, because it will embolden Al Shabab.”
It is not clear whether other parts of the US government – such as CIA operatives, the Ambassador and other State Department diplomats who are based in a heavily fortified bunker at Mogadishu airport , the Somali capital – will also withdraw from Somali territory with the military.