“Somalia gears up for the unexpected as ATMIS draws down – leaving many scratching their heads!”

On Wednesday May 10, 2023, Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, the minister of defense in Somalia, inspected the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), a group of soldiers stationed in Mogadishu. This comes amidst the backdrop of Somalia preparing to take full control of their own security after a staggering 18 years and three multinational peace missions. The ATMIS is set to gradually withdraw 2,000 troops from the embattled Horn of Africa nation by June 30, 2023, with two more drawdowns following until December 31, 2024. The withdrawal is hoped to be done strategically and sector by sector, with Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda contributing troops to the mission.

However, there has been a funding shortfall that has made it hard to carry out the mission. Despite its difficulties, the ATMIS has made progress by conducting joint kinetic operations with Somali security forces against the al-Shabaab insurgency since August 2022. In April 2023, Amani Africa, an Addis Ababa, Ethiopia-based policy think tank, released a report detailing the progress ATMIS has made. Nevertheless, there is a chance that al-Shabaab might use the withdrawal to their advantage by retreating from towns and surrounding themselves with forested areas, where they can then send suicide bombers back into the town.

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The African Union troop-contributing countries met in Entebbe, Uganda, on April 27, 2023, to issue a communique calling for increased logistical support to the Somali Security Forces, reaffirming United Nations Security Council resolutions urging a strategic, gradual, and sector-by-sector drawdown. Additionally, they called for the lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia so that the country can adequately meet its security needs. The Somali government aims to have 24,000 troops ready to go by next year and hopes to defeat al-Shabaab by the summer of 2024.

Overall, there are still challenges to overcome. The ATMIS mandate aims to degrade al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups, provide security to population centers and open main supply routes, develop the capacity of the Somali Security Forces, support the Federal Government of Somalia’s peace and reconciliation efforts, and help develop the capacity of the security, justice and local authority institutions of the Federal Government of Somalia and federal member states.

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