AU forces' withdrawal from Somalia postponed amid war on Al-Shabaab
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The African Union Transition 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 by the federal government of Somalia.
Under the Somali Transition Plan [STP], ATMIS was to have at least 2,000 soldiers withdrawn as part of the exit strategy this December, a program which was to be carried out for the next 24 months, to allow all the 22,000 soldiers serving in the country handover to the Somali National Army [SNA].
"AU Confirms support for the FGS request to extend the ATMIS Phase 1 Reconfiguration for the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS troops from 31 December 2022 to 30 June 2023, as a slight revision of the operational timeline, while reconfirming the commitment to maintain the exit date of 31 December 2024 by ATMIS," said AU peace and security council.
The resolution now means reconfiguration of the troops will start taking effect from July 2024, a delay of almost eight months. Somalia is still struggling to dislodge the Al-Shabaab militants who control large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia.
Abukar Osman, the Somalia ambassador to the United Nations, made the request to the Security Council, noting that the SNA forces are not yet ready to take over given the most recent operation against the militants which has ultimately depleted a number of armaments.
“This challenge and other new developments have forced the Government to request an extension on initiating the first phase of the STP,” Osman said. The Somali Transition Plan is a roadmap that guides the preparation of Somali Security Forces to assume responsibilities from the AU forces.
While African Union insists it is ready to hand over security responsibilities in Somalia, the move is, however, determined by the security situation. For instance, the militants have been engaging in retaliatory attacks for the last three months after SNA waged a crackdown in their territories.
Currently, the security situation in the country is described as "shaky" with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud asking for assistance from foreign nations. On Wednesday, the US Africa Command unleashed an airstrike in Lower Shabelle in support of SNA soldiers, killing over 49 Al-Shabaab militants.
The communique issued by the AU requests the United Nations to consider adding funding to ATMIS for it to exhaust its mandate fully. Besides the United Nations, ATMIS troops are funded by the European Union, the United States, and other security and development partners of Somalia.