Somalia May Postpone Withdrawal of 2,000 AU Troops

A delegation led by ATMIS Sector 6 Inspection Team Leader, Christian Kuker, on Tuesday visited the 6th motorised battalion to inspect their combat readiness. The team commended the troops for their efforts and lauded them for their readiness to protect the local population. PHOTO CREDIT: ATMIS

Somali government may postpone the departure of 2,000 African Union troops scheduled for December.

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops are expected to begin withdrawing next month, with the mission expected to end in 2024 after which all security responsibilities will be handed to the Somali National Army.

US Ambassador to Somalia Larry Andre, at a press conference in Nairobi Monday, said Somali officials and the African Union representatives are discussing troop withdrawal plans.

“What I have been hearing Somalis say is that they want to keep the back end the same. They don’t want to delay the end date but they want to delay the first withdrawal.”

According to security officials, changes to the drawdown are required since Somali government forces are currently engaged in a sustained military offensive against Al Shabaab and will require AU forces support and expertise to finish the group’s threats and attacks in the country.

The United Nations Security Council voted on March 31, 2022, to replace the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with the AU Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

Andre said the security needs may have differed when plans were made between the previous administration and the African Union.

“This is an issue principally and first off between the Somalis and the African Union and those discussions are going on at various levels. Once there is an agreement on any possible adjustments, then it will go to the UN Security Council. Our role will come in at that point. It has implications. It has cost implications,” said Andre.

The European Union is the direct contributor to the AU troops in Somalia, having paid Euro 2.3 billion since 2007 to assist the mission in successfully carrying out its mandate. The AU troops has supported the Somali government in the fight against the insurgent group Al Shabaab.

The African Union has 18,000 troops in Somalia, with troops from five African countries: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. Somali militant group Al Shabaab has portrayed the troops as crusaders seeking to occupy their land and has vowed to continue fighting until they leave the country.

Any delays or changes to the transition plan for foreign troops in Somalia must be approved by the African Union and the UN Security Council.

The Somali government has been collaborating with countries such as Turkey and the US to build a strong military capable of dealing with Al Shabaab and maintaining the country’s security after the African Union mission expires in 2024.