The Nimitz Strike Group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, is off the East African coast to provide cover for U.S. ground troops relocating from Somalia. Photo courtesy of AFRICOM
Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy said on Monday that the Nimitz Strike Group is positioned off the Africa coast as U.S. troops relocate from Somalia to other East African areas.
The strike group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its air wing of 60 aircraft, two guided-missile cruisers and a guided-missile destroyer.
A Navy statement on Monday said that the strike group arrived near the Somalia coast last week to provide "operational and close air support to Joint Task Force-Quartz and Operation Octave Quartz."
The missions are involved in combating Somalian al-Shabab extremists and the plan to move U.S. troops from Somalia to other encampments in East Africa.
The Pentagon announced Dec. 4 that, under orders from President Donald Trump, U.S. assets and most of the approximately 700 troops will be removed from Somalia by early 2021.
The forces will likely go to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti or Manda Bay in Kenya, two countries which are adjacent to Somalia.
"To be clear, the U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from East Africa," said Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, in a Dec. 19 statement.
"We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. We also remain capable of striking Al-Shabab at the time and place of our choosing. They should not test us," Townsend said at the time.
The presence of the Navy ships, and the U.S. Marines' Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is meant to provide cover for U.S. land forces as they exit Somalia.
About 5,000 Navy and Marines personnel are now off the Somalia coast.
"The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group brings incredible capability and allows us to maintain pressure against regional threats throughout Operation Octave Quartz," USAF Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, JTF-Q commander, said in the Navy statement on Monday.