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Somalia Seeks Three-Month Delay in Removal of AU Troops

The Federal Republic of Somalia has asked the United Nations Security Council to reconsider the withdrawal of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops.

The authorities argued that the ongoing drawdown should be paused for three months due to security challenges in the country.

Tentatively, it is anticipated that by December 2024, over 20,000 soldiers will have been in the country, handing over security responsibilities to the Somali National Army (SNA).

Already, 2000 soldiers have left and an additional 3,000 are expected to leave by the end of September.

Somali authorities recently wrote to the United Nations requesting a 90-day delay in the planned drawdown of African Union troops after suffering “several significant setbacks” in its fight against Al-Shabaab militants.

A Somali government letter shows the national security adviser wrote to the United Nations requesting a 90-day delay in the second phase of the African Union troop pullout.

“The Federal Government of Somalia formally requests a technical pause in the drawdown of the 3,000 African Union Transition in Somalia, ATMIS, uniformed personnel by three months,” read the letter.

A diplomatic source confirmed the authenticity of the letter and another source close to the matter confirmed the request.

AFP reached out to several Somali government officials, who did not comment.

UN resolutions call for the ATMIS force to withdraw by the end of next year, placing security operations in the hands of Somalia’s army and police.

The Horn of Africa country has been wracked by civil war and then a surge in violence by the al-Shabaab Islamist militants for more than 30 years.

Hussein Sheikh Ali, the presidential security advisor, and other top government officials have written to the security organ, calling for a technical pause of withdrawal of the AU troops, adding that such a move will enable the country to put certain logistics in play.

The government wants to buy time for its effort to have an arms embargo lifted – a campaign supported by Ethiopia and Uganda, two regional powers.

“Somalia believes its campaign for lifting the U.N. arms embargo depends on proving that it can take responsibility for its security without the dependence of AU peacekeepers, so it can better fight al-Shabaab terrorists. At the same time, it does not want ATMIS the African Transition Mission in Somalia with its stronger military hardware to leave the country in the middle of an unpredictable war with al-Shabaab.”

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre asked the United Nations General Assembly to reconsider lifting the arms embargo on the country to allow Somalia to acquire sophisticated weapons that can be used for the al-Shabaab war.

The Somali government had repeatedly said it would be ready to take over security responsibilities from ATMIS when those troops withdrew from the country, in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2687. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud believes al-Shabaab militants will be defeated.

“This unforeseen turn of events has stretched our military forces thin, exposed vulnerabilities in our front lines, and necessitated a thorough reorganization to ensure we maintain our momentum in countering the al-Shabaab threat,” the letter said.

“We hold firm in our belief that this technical pause will, in the long run, contribute to the enduring peace, stability, and prosperity of Somalia,” it said, adding that the government remained fully committed to the complete ATMIS drawdown by the end-of-2024 deadline.

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