Somalia's security forces may still be too weak to stand on their own, an independent auditor of the US Defence said on Wednesday, warning of a possible resurgence of militant group al-Shabaab.
The Inspector-General of the US Department of Defence said that despite the training and strengthening of the Somali military, there are still gaps that could be exploited by the Shabaab.
"The United States and the international community continued to train, advise, accompany, and equip Somali forces as they battled al-Shabaab.
"The Somali government, however, has not met milestones for the development of its security forces. The United States worked with the Somali government to revise plans to transition security responsibilities to Somali security forces."
The warning is contained in the final quarter report of the Lead Inspector-General (Lead IG) on the East Africa Counterterrorism Operation and the North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operation.
It came after the US had initially announced troop withdrawal from Africa. Earlier this week, the DoD merged the army for the Europe and Africa Commands into the US Army Europe and Africa "to allow us to capitalise on our natural relationships ... . and align our operations, activities and investments in Africa with some of their security concerns and form a tighter partnership."
In Somalia, the US has helped train special forces known as Danab, to work alongside the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the continental force that is expected to exit Somalia starting next year.
When the US first indicated plans to withdraw its troops from the ground, Somalia's President Mohamed Farmaajo warned that the country's security situation could be worsened. About 800 US troops are in Somalia providing technical expertise.
But an assessment by the US military, however, indicated that al-Shabaab could be more potent and capable of attacking installations both within and outside Somalia. According to the US-Africa Command, al-Shabaab "remains adaptive, resilient, and capable of attacking Western and partner interests in Somalia and East Africa."
In January this year, Shabaab staged a daring attack on a military base in Kenya's Lamu County, killing three officials; a soldier and two contractors, injuring others and destroying aircraft.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blacklisted two individuals seen as masterminds of the attack. Abdullahi Osman Mohamed and Maalim Ayman were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), which automatically means their assets on US soil will be frozen, American entities barred from dealing with them, and global businesses could face sanctions if they are found to be channelling financial or other support to the pair.
After months of investigations, US authorities pointed a finger at Maalim Ayman Jaysh Ayman, an al-Shabaab cell that often conducts raids on Kenyan and Somalia border towns, as one of those responsible for preparing the January attack.
Despite the projected withdrawal of physical troops, the US DoD said that it will have to remain active in identifying threats, "determine their scope and scale, and respond appropriately, despite the challenges of USAFRICOM's limited footprint on the continent."
"As the VEO (violent extremist organisation) threat cannot be addressed through military action alone, the US Government will need to effectively leverage, and coordinate the diplomatic, humanitarian, and development capabilities of multiple agencies to address the underlying drivers of extremism, including poor governance, humanitarian crises, and lack of economic opportunity."