Troop and equipment drawdowns by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) will not affect ongoing operations against Al Shabaab in the east African country.
With an eye on the mission’s full withdrawal by December 2024 – 16 months away – ATMIS Force Commander Lieutenant General Sam Okiding re-affirmed the mission’s commitment to support the ongoing Somali-led military offensive against Al Shabaab militants in search of ensure peace and security.
Speaking during a media briefing at ATMIS Force HQ I Mogadishu this week, he said: “Our goal, as ATMIS and all stakeholders in this mission, is to see a more secure, stable and prosperous Somalia at peace with itself and the rest of the world”.
To this end ATMIS will continue its focus on enhancing the Somali Security Forces (SSF) capabilities to take over the country’s security responsibilities as ATMIS gradually withdraws its troops.
“A key role,” according to him, “is mentoring the SSF so there is no security vacuum when ATMIS exits Somalia”.
In the first phase of the drawdown completed in June, ATMIS withdrew 2 000 troops and handed six forward operating bases (FOBs) in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions to the SSF.
Together with the United Nations (UN) and the Somali government, ATMIS completed a technical evaluation of the first phase and is now preparing to withdraw a further 3 000 troops.
The recommendations of the technical evaluation will be presented to the UN Security Council, with a further update on preparations for the second phase expected by 15 September. The withdrawal of 3 000 AU troops in the second phase is expected to be completed by the end of September as per UN Resolution.
Okiding commended ATMIS forces for joint military operations with SSF in the Galgaduud region after degrading Al Shabaab in the Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions.
“ATMIS forces maintained gains made by not losing territory to Al Shabaab across all sectors, hence, achieving the mandate of protecting civilians, UN agencies and humanitarian agencies among others,” he said adding, “It is one thing to capture, but it’s another to maintain. ATMIS consolidated all those gains.”
The Force Commander urged the international community to continue supporting the peacebuilding process in key areas. These include force generation, lifting the arms embargo, capacity building, deployment of critical force enablers as well as provision of predictable and sustainable funding.
He, as per an ATMIS statement, lauded the Somalia National Army (SNA) for successfully taking over the six FOBs in June, noting ATMIS will continue to support the Somali-led transition process which culminates in the handover of full security responsibilities by the end of next year.