ATMIS: Troop Scale-Down in Somalia Nearing Completion?

The progress on the much-awaited exit plan of peacekeeping troops from Somalia is reportedly at a highly advanced stage, as confirmed by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). However, the withdrawal is anticipated to be perplexed and bursty in nature, with the first phase set to withdraw at least 2000 soldiers by the end of June 2023.

Currently, there are approximately 22,000 ATMIS soldiers in Somalia who are critical to the fight against Al-Shabaab. Nonetheless, the United Nations is pushing for a strategic withdrawal of the soldiers and subsequent handover of security responsibilities to the Somali National Army (SNA) in the coming months.

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This is in compliance with the Kampala Accord, which requires ATMIS to start a drawdown of soldiers, with the Somali Transition Plan (STP) anticipated to guide the process. Under this plan, it is expected that the SNA Force would have been sufficiently prepared for the task.

According to Ambassador Mohammed El-Amine Souef, the special representative of the African Union Commission, a joint technical committee with members drawn from appropriate stakeholders, including the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), and ATMIS, among others, have identified and agreed to forward operating bases (FOBs) to be handed over from ATMIS to SSF or to be collapsed. The ATMIS will reduce troops in some Forward Operating Bases where the Somali army is expected to increase the number of soldiers.

The plan shall be carried out at the time Somalia has requested neighboring countries to deploy more soldiers to the country. The Deputy Force Commander in charge of logistics and plan, Maj. Gen. Marius Ngendabanka, said the scaling down of troops in Somalia would not affect security operations against the Al-Shabaab militants. ATMIS troops are diligently working with SNA soldiers to liberate many towns from the Al-Shabaab group. The plan has worked given that over 3,000 militants were killed in the first phase of operations.

It has been announced by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud that the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab will focus on Jubaland and Southwest states in the coming months. ATMIS, the US Africa Command, and local militia have been actively involved in the operations against the group. On Sunday, Lt. General Sam Okiding assumed the role of Force Commander, and he is expected to lead the mission in the withdrawal of troops from the country.

Additionally, some contributing countries of troops include Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, and Burundi, but some other countries have also dispatched the police. The withdrawal and handover of duties shall be a momentous and elusive journey that will take considerable time for proper execution.

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