2,500 Americans leaving Somalia

December 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Signaling the start of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Somalia, Defense Secretary Les Aspin says 2,500 of the 8,200 American soldiers there will leave by Christmas.

Pentagon officials said that about 1,000 soldiers are packing now and would fly home beginning later this week.

The number and firepower of U.S. forces in Somalia were increased by President Clinton two months ago after a battle with a Somalian faction in which 18 American soldiers died and 75 were wounded. But Mr. Clinton also set March 31 as the deadline for pulling out all the American troops.

Asked yesterday if the Pentagon still planned to remove all American troops by that date, Mr. Aspin, speaking on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," said, "Absolutely."

After Mr. Aspin's television appearance, a senior Army official said that in addition to the infantry battalion leaving, about 1,500 logistics troops and several hundred other supporting troops, such as combat engineers, would fly home by the end of December.

The remaining ground forces will be pulled out in phases from January to March.

The Pentagon has dispatched several hundred packing experts to clean equipment to ease fears the troops could bring back harmful diseases or insects.

Over all, there are about 29,000 troops in Somalia taking part in the U.N. peacekeeping effort.

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