Somaliland capitalizes on US plans to withdraw troops from Somalia
HARGEISA, Somalia - The northern breakaway region of Somaliland has suggestively seized opportunity following the US announcement on plans to withdraw troops from troubled Somalia, calling for Washington to consider exhausting her interests in Hargeisa, which is relatively peaceful than Mogadishu.
Somaliland claims to have seceded from Somalia following their frosty relationship which was terminated in 1991 after almost three decades of cooperation. The two had united after getting independence from Britain and Italy respectively to form the Republic of Somalia.
In a letter issued on Saturday, Somaliland said the intentions by the US to withdraw troops from Somalia sends a strong signal to the Horn of Africa, adding that each nation should strive to promote peace independently by pursuing internal conflict resolution management.
"The US decision to remove military forces from Somalia sends a strong message that Horn of Africa countries must take responsibility for their own security," read the communique, which comes hours after the Department of Defense confirmed the planned withdrawal of over 700 troops who are stationed in Somalia.
"For three decades, Somaliland, as an independent, sovereign, and democratic nation, our government and people have fulfilled this responsibility. Our security forces and judiciary have deterred terrorism and piracy in our territory and adjacent waterways," the Somaliland government added.
There were rumors early this year that the US was planning to shift her military base from Djibouti to Somaliland but the Department of Defense is yet to confirm. Even so, Somaliland has been pushing for international recognition, a move that has raised a lot of interest from major superpowers.
For instance, the US approved Somaliland's ties with Taiwan, and East Asia Island that is claimed by China, a tactical move was seen by pundits as a strategy to displace China from the Horn of Africa. Recently, Russia joined the feud between Somaliland and Somalia, calling for the resumption of talks between the two.
"The government of Somaliland welcomes the US to seize the opportunity and strengthen our partnerships besides advancing her interests," Somaliland said in the communique, which could raise political temperatures in Mogadishu.
The Department of Defense said outgoing President Donald Trump had ordered for withdrawal of the US troops from Somalia by the end of January 2021. The troops are responsible for the training of Danab Special Forces besides aiding in aerial surveillance and bombardments against Al-Shabaab militants.
But the department was a bit skeptical, claiming that the move is meant to "reposition the majority of personnel and assets" out of Somalia. The New York Times had reported that most of the affected troops will be relocated to Kenya and Djibouti where the US uses as strategic bases in the same war.
"The U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa. We remain committed to our African partners and enduring support through a whole-of-government approach," reads the release, which was published for the first time on Nov. 4, a day after the US voted for Democratic candidate Joe Biden as the next president.
"While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy. We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition," the department adds.
Although the department did not reveal the countries where the over 700 troops in Somalia will be repositioned, it, however, insisted that they will continue staying in East Africa, an affirmation to NYT reports that they will be in Kenya and Djibouti. The two countries are home to US drones that are used in striking Al-Shabaab bases.
"As a result of this decision, some forces may be reassigned outside of East Africa," reads the statement. "However, the remaining forces will be repositioned from Somalia into neighboring countries in order to allow cross-border operations by both U.S. and partner forces to maintain pressure against violent extremist organizations operating in Somalia."
"The U.S. will retain the capability to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia, and collect early warnings and indicators regarding threats to the homeland," it adds.
US troops who work under the Africa Command are integral in the fight against Al-Shabaab. The team launches airstrikes besides training the elite Danab Special Forces, who have been playing a great role in the liberation of several strategic towns within the country.