Somalia’s Bewildering Challenge: The Army Faces Momentous AU Troop Drawdown

Somalia's Bewildering Challenge: The Army Faces Momentous Au Troop Drawdown
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The date is Monday June 19, 2023. Something perplexing is happening at the Atmis Mission Headquarters in Mogadishu, Somalia. A delegation from the African Union Military Staff Committee of the Peace and Security Council is gathered there. It’s a chaotic scene with bursts of activity and confusion. A photo is captured of this perplexing moment, documenting the madness.

As the African Union force in Somalia gets ready to withdraw 2,000 troops at the end of June, the Somalia National Army is about to face its biggest challenge yet. They will be responsible for security in a vast territory, taking over seven forward operating bases (FOBs) from the departing foreign forces starting on June 15.

These seven FOBs, currently defended by Uganda, Burundi, and Kenyan forces, have names like Al Jazeera, Arbao, and Marka. They are located in different sectors, manned by different troops. The situation is perplexing and overwhelming.

Just last month, on May 26, there was a deadly attack by the Al Shabaab militants on a forward operating base in Buulo Mareer. This incident has sparked a debate about the future of Somalia after Atmis. President Museveni revealed that 54 soldiers were killed in the attack. He blamed panic and the deployment of unfit personnel for the base being overrun. He also expressed frustration with the Americans and Turks who had the technology to help but didn’t.

Security experts and conflict analysts believe that the failure to deploy technology and intelligence, combined with the limited number of soldiers due to the drawdown, led to the attack. The situation is perplexing and frustrating for those involved.

In light of these circumstances, the European Union emphasizes the need to improve the capacity and capability of the Somalia National Army in the remaining 18 months of the mission. They stress the importance of a coordinated approach involving all stakeholders in the pursuit of peace.

The EU recognizes the accomplishments of the AU force over the past 16 years. They have made significant progress in challenging Al Shabaab and restoring stability to Somalia. However, the key challenge now is to develop a unified and effective security apparatus with proper oversight and governance structures in place.

This week, Atmis officials visited Cadalle FOB in Hirshabelle to assess the situation ahead of the drawdown and handover to the SNA. This is yet another perplexing moment in this complex situation.

The impending drawdown of troops is in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions. The EU’s mission reports highlight the difficult task faced by Somalia’s security forces as they combat Al Shabaab while also working to stabilize liberated territories and take over responsibilities from Atmis.