Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Although U.S. troops are leaving Somalia, they will be deployed elsewhere in East Africa, the U.S. Africa Command leader said.
The troops are involved in combating the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabab, training local forces and protecting Baledogle Airfield in southern Somalia.
The U.S. forces will likely go to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti or Manda Bay in Kenya, two countries that are adjacent to Somalia, but AFRICOM commander Gen. Stephen Townsend did not mention locations in his statement.
"I directed the activation of a joint task force, JTF-Quartz, built around the headquarters of Special Operations Command-Africa, to oversee Operation Octave Quartz, the directed re-positioning of U.S. forces from Somalia to other bases in East Africa," Townsend said.
"To be clear, the U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from East Africa. We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. We also remain capable of striking Al-Shabaab at the time and place of our choosing. They should not test us."
About 700 U.S. troops are in Somalia.
A weeklong clash at a military base in the central town of Ba'adweyene, between al-Shabab militants and Somali soldiers and civilians, left dozens dead in early December.