The Federal Government of Somalia has asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to halt the ongoing troop drawdown as a precautionary measure to avert security gaps.
Under the drawdown schedule, 3,000 African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops are to leave Somalia at the end of this month, in a continuing withdrawal meant to gradually last until December 2024.
However, in a September 19 to the UNSC, the Somali government asked that the drawdown be delayed for at least three months to allow it to organize itself.
They say that they have been engaged in a wide-scale offensive against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab in the past few months particularly in the central regions of Somalia where they have managed to re-liberate towns, villages, and critical supply routes but it has come at a cost on them.
“ Unfortunately, on 26 August 2023, we have suffered several significant setbacks after the attack on our forces in Cosweyn area, Galguduud region and the subsequent retreats by the forces from several towns that were recently liberated.This unforeseen turn of events has stretched our military forces thin, exposed vulnerabilities in our frontlines, and necessitated a thorough reorganisation to ensure we maintain our momentum in countering the Al-Shabaab threat,” the Somali government said.
“ To achieve this, our forces require a period of respite for recuperation while we continue our advance to liberate the remaining areas outlined in phase 1 of our offensive operations. Therefore, the proposed 90-day suspension of the drawdown of our forces will prove invaluable in achieving these objectives.”
The Somali government said it also must address the pressing logistical concerns and resource gaps confronting the Somali Security Forces in their war against the Islamic militants.
“As the Somalia National Armed Forces (SNAF) undertakes increased responsibilities, there is a burgeoning demand for logistical support. While the existing logistics support is undeniably crucial, it falls short due to the ongoing escalated operational tempo in countering Al-Shabaab. During the technical pause, the Federal Government of Somalia, in conjunction with our esteemed partners, shall conduct a comprehensive reassessment of the operational needs of the SNAF. This reassessment aims to ensure that our armed forces are endowed with the requisite financial and logistical resources to effectively pursue our transition priorities.”
The government in Mogadishu therefore noted that given the multifaceted nature of these challenges, it is imperative that that more time is allocated to conduct a comprehensive revaluation of our approach and planning for the security transition.
“We must exercise utmost caution as we deliberate on the strategic necessity of FOBS and how to adequately man them.”
The development comes at a time when Al Shabaab seems to have gained more ground in Somalia.
For example, the terrorist group has stepped up attacks, especially on troops.
For example on May 26, at about 5 am, the Jihadist group attacked and overrun a UPDF base at Buulo-Mareer along River Shabelle in the Lower Shabelle region killing 54 soldiers, captured others whereas some were left nursing injuries.
Several other attacks on Somalia National Army and Ethiopian troop bases have also been reported in the past weeks by Al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab has also taken over a number of forward operating bases returned to the Somali army.
Whereas troop contributing countries and the African Union sought more funds to keep the mission going, donors felt the mission’s value was waning and consequently advised for a troop drawdown.
Counter-insurgency efforts by ATMIS have of late run out steam but on the other hand, Al Shabaab insurgents have continued to gain ground and carry out attacks due to the security vacuum left behind by the draw-down.