Initiation of Second Phase of Troop Withdrawal from Somalia Confirmed by African Union
By OMAR FARUK
Monday September 18, 2023
The African Union has initiated the second phase of troop withdrawal from Somalia, aiming to transfer security responsibilities to the country’s authorities. This announcement came from the African Union on Monday. The withdrawal process adheres to a predetermined timeline, focusing on empowering the Somali authorities in their fight against al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s East African affiliate based in Somalia.
Last year, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), designed to assist Somalia until their own forces are fully responsible for national security by the end of 2024.
The current mission plans to withdraw at least 3,000 troops by the end of this month, out of the original 19,626-strong African Union force. In the initial phase, around 2,000 African Union troops from different member states left Somalia in June, transferring control of six forward operating bases.
On Sunday, the Burundian contingent handed over the Biyo Adde forward operating base in the south-central Hirshabelle state, which is near the capital Mogadishu, to the Somali national army. Lt. Col. Philip Butoyi, the commander, praised the progress made by the Somali forces.
“We have witnessed significant advancements on the battlefield, with Somali Security Forces displaying their increased capability to secure the nation. We have observed their successful efforts in attacking, capturing, and holding ground,” Butoyi stated, as quoted by the mission.
Maj. Muhudiin Ahmed of the Somali army expressed gratitude to the Burundian troops for their sacrifices in defending their land against the enemy.
According to a U.N. resolution, the troop withdrawal will be carried out in three phases and is scheduled to be completed by December 2024.
During the last year, Somalia’s government launched an intensive campaign against the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group, al-Shabab. Al-Shabab controls parts of rural central and southern Somalia, generating substantial revenue through taxing residents and extorting businesses.
For over a decade, al-Shabab has orchestrated destructive attacks while exploiting clan divisions and extorting millions of dollars each year in its pursuit of establishing an Islamic state. The ongoing offensive was partly triggered by local communities and militias who were pushed to their limits due to al-Shabab’s burdensome taxation practices amidst the country’s severe drought conditions.