Temporary US Pentagon chief makes rare visit to Somalia

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U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Martin, junior sniper, assigned to the 1-186th Infantry Battalion, Task Force Guardian, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, provides security for a 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (EAS) C-130J Super Hercules during unloading operations at an unidentified location in Somalia Sunday, June 28, 2020. No country has been involved in Somalia’s future as much as the United States but now the Trump administration is thinking of withdrawing the several hundred U.S. military troops from the nation at what some experts call the worst possible time. (Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano/Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa via AP)

The Pentagon’s acting defense secretary has made a rare visit to Somalia, a conflict-plagued nation in the Horn of Africa where American forces have been assisting in the fight against al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab.

In a brief statement, the Pentagon said Christopher Miller, who was installed as acting defense secretary Nov. 9 when President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper, met Friday with U.S. troops in Mogadishu, the capital, to express appreciation for their work and to reiterate the U.S. commitment to combating extremist groups.

Just hours after Miller’s visit, the Somali government announced that a suicide bombing in Mogadishu killed at least seven people, and the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility.

Trump is expected to order a withdrawal of most or all of the 700 U.S. troops based in Somalia before he leaves office Jan. 20.

Miller has been in the Middle East and parts of north Africa this week on his first international trip as acting defense secretary. Miller, who previously headed the National Counterterrorism Center, has not been nominated by Trump for Senate confirmation as Pentagon chief.

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