Operation Octave Fusion
Donald Trump ordered the removal of most American soldiers from Somalia by early 2021, the Pentagon said in a statement on 04 December 2020. Nearly 700 US soldiers were currently deployed in Somalia. They conduct training with local forces — including the elite Danab special forces — and assist them in their fight against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militant group in counterterrorism missions.
There had been concerns that a withdrawal could weaken anti-Shabab forces and severely impact the security situation in the Horn of Africa nation. However, the Pentagon said the US will "retain the capability to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia, and collect early warnings and indicators regarding threats to the homeland." The Pentagon statement added that the US is not "withdrawing" or "disengaging" from Africa and that some forces could be reassigned outside of East Africa.
By October 2020 the US had about 700 troops in Somalia, mostly special forces troops who are helping train Somalia’s army. All or nearly all were sent during Trump’s presidency. Trump told top advisers he wants to withdraw US troops from Somalia, according to people familiar with the matter, allowing him to make good on campaign pledges to bring soldiers home even though the country remains beset by al-Qaeda-linked insurgents. The Pentagon began drafting plans for the president, and discussions involved National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.
On 25 January 2012, President Obama announced that he had "authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia." Operation Octave Fusion had been launched by special operations forces, said to have been from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) on 23 January 2011. The operators were also reported to have been from the same team responsible for the raid that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. There were no American casualties in the operation.
Jessica Buchanan and another individual, Danish national Poul Thisted, had been working for the Danish Demining Group when they were kidnapped near Galcayo, Somalia on 25 October 2012. The Danish Demining Group is a unit of the Danish Refugee Council that helps clear landmines and other explosives in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East. The 2 individuals were traveling after having finished conducting a demining training course for local Somali citizens. Officials said that armed criminals, or pirates, appeared to have been responsible for the kidnapping, and were holding the 2 hostages for ransom.
The decision to conduct the operation was due to concerns over the health and well-being of Jessica Buchanan, who was reported to suffer from an undisclosed medical ailment. This led the Department of Justice to request assistance from the Department of Defense, which, in turn, directed US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to plan and conduct the rescue operation. The operation was said to have been planned and conducted with close coordinating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Receiving actionable intelligence, US special operations forces conducted a coordinated operation in the vicinity of Gadaado, Somalia, northwest of the capital Mogadishu. During the course of the operation, the rescue force patrolled to the location and confirmed the presence of Buchanan and Thisted guarded by 9 captors. The rescue force had been inserted near the target by helicopter. All 9 captors were killed during the assault. After securing the location, US special operations forces found Buchanan and Thisted unharmed in the outdoor encampment.
The raid took place just hours before President Obama gave his State of the Union address in Washington. Before making his address, President Obama reportedly could be heard by television microphones congratulating Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, apparently for the success of the rescue operation.
Both individuals were reported well after being rescued and were said to have been transported to a secure location. A medical evacuation team from the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron assisted in the transportation of the rescued hostages. Jessica Buchanan was later reported to be being cared for at a military hospital in Djibouti. The 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, part of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, is based at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
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