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5,000 US sailors, Marines arrive near Somalia to support troop ‘repositioning’

USS Somerset (US Navy/Released)

About 5,000 San Diego-based sailors and Marines were off the coast of Somalia Tuesday to support the repositioning of U.S. troops ordered by President Donald Trump earlier this month, according to a news release.

The San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island and amphibious transport dock ships USS San Diego and USS Somerset arrived in the area Monday. On board the vessels are Camp Pendleton-based Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The amphibious ready group and expeditionary unit will conduct maritime security operations with the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, a new expeditionary sea base built in San Diego and based in Greece, according to a statement from U.S. Africa Command.

“The arrival of the ARG/MEU and its significant combat capability demonstrates our resolve to support our partners and protect our forces through this transition,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, the commander of Joint Task Force Quartz, in a statement.

Trump ordered the withdrawal of most of the 700 U.S. troops in Somalia on Dec. 4. The forces are in the county training and advising Somali forces in their fight against al-Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaida.

The troops will relocate to other countries in East Africa, the statement says. It did not specify which. The Pentagon previously said some troops could be assigned outside of East Africa but that others would relocate to neighboring countries to conduct cross-border operations into Somalia.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its strike group are also operating in the area, USNI News reported Monday.

Trump has made other moves in the Pentagon and in repositioning U.S. forces in the waning days of his presidency. Shortly after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller, who had been the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

One week after Esper’s firing, Miller, now the acting secretary, ordered thousands of troops to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan before Trump leaves office.

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