Kenya and other troop contributors for the African Union Transition Mission to Somalia (ATMIS) have backed Mogadishu’s request to delay withdrawing the forces by three months, indicating there could be security lapses in the war on terror.
The move by Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi now means the 3,000 soldiers who were to leave Somalia by September 29 may stay longer or be replaced by an equal number to ensure there are no security gaps in areas the forces leave. But that will depend on funding availability.The five troop contributors to the AU Mission told the UN Security Council that they were in “strong support of technical pause” of the drawdown because they agree with Somalia that the country needs time to address certain security gaps including pooling enough personnel to take over security responsibilities.
“Our aim is to ensure that Somalia has the space to address the pressing challenges without hastening the security transition process,” they wrote in a joint letter to the UN Security Council on September 23. One of the gaps identified in a joint African Union-Somalia technical report was Somalia’s current inability to guard residential areas near Forward Operating Bases (FOB) to be relinquished by ATMIS. The troop contributors want Mogadishu to be given more time to generate own troops and other resources to ensure the areas do not fall back to al-Shabaab hands.
They, however, argued that the matter of funding must now be urgently addressed to providing certainty to their stay.
“ATMISS TCCs (troop contributing countries) note that Somalia will require the assistance from the international partners in seeking funding to support 3,000 troops.
“We propose sourcing funding from different budget lines and partners to ensure that the necessary resources are available to sustain the security transition effectively.
“We are committed to working with Somalia and Somalia’s partners to secure the financial support required for this critical mission.”
The revelations emerged even as sources indicated some of the 3,000 troops were preparing to leave Somalia, as per the UN Security Council Resolution 2689 which gave a September 30 deadline.
One of the FOBs, known as Bio Cadale in Hirshabelle state, had already been vacated by Burundi troops who manned it. But while the Somali National Army had taken over, the TCCs say Somalia doesn’t have capacity yet to divide its roles between taking over FOBs and continuing with Phase 2 of the war on al-Shabaab.
The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the matter but the African Union Peace and Security Council is supposed to facilitate discussions on how to continue funding the troops beyond September 29.
ATMIS, initially known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), had 21,000 troops but has been drawing down the numbers under a programme agreed on last year in April. The Mission is supposed to leave entirely by December 2024.