A delegation from the African Union (AU) Military Staff Committee who form part of the union’s Peace and Security Council has concluded a fact-finding mission to Somalia to assess the security situation ahead of the planned drawdown of ATMIS troops at the end of this month and in September 2023.
The 23-member visiting delegation which included Defence Attaches from 17 African countries held the last of a series of meetings with the leadership of ATMIS, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the United Nations in Mogadishu.
On the drawdown of 2000 ATMIS Troops scheduled for the end of June, the SRCC and Head of ATMIS, Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef, said ATMIS remains committed to handing over security responsibilities to the FGS and preparations for troop reduction are far advanced and on schedule.
“What we have done for the drawdown was to establish a Tripartite Technical Committee which includes representatives from the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), the United Nations Support office to Somalia (UNSOS) and ATMIS to plan the details. This has been done in line with the agreed Concept of Operations (CONOPs) and UN Security Council Resolutions 2628 and 2670,” the SRCC and Head of ATMIS explained.
“We have agreed to hand over a number of Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) to the Federal Government of Somalia from June 15, 2023, as we reduce our numbers by 2000 soldiers”, the SRCC added.
Ambassador El-Amine Souef called on the international community to support the lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia to enable Somali Security Forces take ownership of the country’s security in the fight against Al-Shabaab.
Somalia’s Minister of Defence, Abdikadir Mohamed Nur, praised the coordination efforts between ATMIS, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to ensuring a smooth transfer of security responsibilities to the Somali Security Forces.
“The Ministry of Defence had taken the lead on this assignment and the handover and takeover are a testament that our Somali Security Forces have demonstrated their strength to take over security in their country,” said the Minister.
On June 11, President William Ruto and his Djibouti counterpart Ismail Guelleh emphasized on the importance of aligning the drawdown of regional force in Somalia with the country’s security capabilities.
The two leaders who spoke at a press conference in Djibouti appeared to suggest that they would not support any proposal to terminate the mandate of troops in Somalia without assurances of Somalia’s capability to effectively tackle Al Shabaab.
In line with the UN Resolution 2670, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is expected to drawdown 2,000 troops by June 30 in a phased hand over of security responsibilities to the Somali security forces in the implementation of the Somali Transition Plan.
Ruto and Guelleh insisted on the need to safeguard successes of ATMIS’ predecessor, the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
“As troop contributing countries to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) we agreed that the upcoming IGAD Summit should address the Somalia transition plan while safeguarding the gains made by AMISOM/ATMIS,” Ruto said
They added that the drawdown must ensure Somalia’s security forces assume control of areas liberated from the hands of the Al-Qaeda linked jihadist group Al-Shabaab.
“On the regional front, we affirmed our common goal of promoting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa region,” He said.
The AU Peace Mission has until 31 December 2024 to exit Somalia.
The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the ATMIS have both reaffirmed their commitment to facilitate a smooth transfer of security responsibilities to the Somalia security forces.