The withdrawal of AU forces from Somalia was postponed amid the war against al-Shabaab
MOGADISHU, Somalia – African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] will not have the number of troops serving in the peacekeeping mission reduced for at least the next six months, the African Union has confirmed, following a request from Somalia’s federal government.
According to the Somali transition plan [STP]ATMIS was to withdraw at least 2,000 troops as part of the exit strategy in December, a program to be implemented over the next 24 months, to allow all of the 22,000 soldiers serving in the country to hand over to the Somali National Army [SNA].
“The AU reaffirms support for the FGS request to extend the ATMIS Phase 1 reconfiguration to withdraw 2,000 ATMIS troops from 31 December 2022 to 30 June 2023, as a minor revision to the operational timeline, while reaffirming the commitment to maintain the withdrawal date of 31 December 2024 by ATMIS,” the AU Peace and Security Council said.
The resolution now means that the reconfiguration of the troops will take effect from July 2024, a delay of almost eight months. Somalia is still struggling to dislodge the al-Shabaab militants who control large parts of rural central and southern Somalia.
Abukar Osman, Somalia’s UN ambassador, made the request to the Security Council, noting that the SNA forces are not yet ready to take over given the latest operation against the militants which has ultimately depleted a number of armaments.
“This challenge and other recent developments have forced the government to request an extension to start the first phase of the STP,” Osman said. The Somali Transition Plan is a roadmap that guides the preparation of Somali security forces to take over from AU forces.
Although the African Union insists it is ready to hand over security responsibility in Somalia, the move is determined by the security situation. For example, the militants have engaged in retaliatory attacks in the past three months after the SNA carried out a crackdown in their territories.
Currently, the security situation in the country is described as “shaky” with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud asking for help from foreign nations. On Wednesday, US Africa Command launched an airstrike in Lower Shabelle in support of SNA soldiers, killing over 49 al-Shabaab militants.
The communication issued by the AU calls on the UN to consider adding funding to ATMIS to enable it to fully fulfill its mandate. In addition to the UN, ATMIS troops are funded by the European Union, the United States and other security and development partners in Somalia.