Federal Government of Somalia has asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to delay the ongoing troops drawdown from the country, signaling the reality that such a move could leave security gaps.
Under the drawdown schedule, some 3,000 African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) forces were to leave Somalia at the end of this month, in a continuing withdrawal meant to gradually last until December 2024.
On September 19, the Federal Government of Somalia wrote to the UNSC to request that UN Security Council-mandated Atmis calls off the drawdown by at least three months.
“The Federal Government of Somalia formally requests a technical pause in the drawdown of the 3,000 Atmis uniformed personnel by 3 months as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2687.
“This request arises from our compelling need to address significant challenges revealed by the Joint Technical Assessment report, which lays out profound implications for the security transition in Somalia,” reads the letter signed by Hussein Sheikh Ali, Somalia’s National Security Advisor, and addressed to Ferit-Hoxha, President of the September President for the UN Security Council.
Based on this, sources told The EastAfrican that in their assessment, the authorities in Mogadishu want to prevent an avoidable security vacuum at some of the bases that Atmis forces were vacating or closing, which included strategic government institutions and regional offices.
Atmis was due to hand over five forward operating bases (FOBs), including State House, Parliament, Kismayo Old Airport, Dhusamareb and Bio Cadale, while another four bases, namely, Salile, Burhashi, Regase and Qorilow, were to be permanently closed.
"All troops that were on standby to withdraw will now stay put in their bases," sources said.
This surprise turn around comes just days after the peacekeeping mission had handed over Bio Cadale FOB in HirShabelle State on September 17 – the first of nine that were to be vacated during this phase two of the troop's withdrawal exercise.
During the handover, the Atmis Bio Cadale FOB Commander Lt Col Philippe Butoyi said the transfer of security responsibility was a testament to Somalia’s leadership in rebuilding the country, protecting the population, and ensuring security and stability.
“We have witnessed developments on the battlefield where Somali Security Forces have demonstrated their increasing capability to securing the country. We have seen the forces attack, seize and hold ground,” said Lt Col Butoyi.
He added that, “professionally trained and well-equipped Somali Security Force are game changers in the fight against terrorism in Somalia.” Bio Cadale FOB was manned by soldiers of Burundi National Defence Forces.
Yet as the withdrawal started, VOA reported that on September 18, 11 Somali government soldiers were killed and three others injured in a roadside explosion which targeted a convoy of military vehicles in the southwestern Gedo region.
On June 30, Atmis concluded the first phase of the drawdown of 2000 troops, but one of the lessons learnt from it was the many deadly attacks that Al Shabaab terrorists mounted on Somalia security forces after the peacekeepers handed over bases.