Somalia

AU council endorses Somalia request for slowed withdrawal of ATMIS troops

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The council expressed concerns that the full implementation of phase three drawdown could lead to capability gaps that may have significant implications for the security of Somalia and the wider region.

The AU Peace and Security Council has endorsed Somalia's request for a staggered phase-three withdrawal of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and kicked off the establishment of a mission to retain gains in the fight against Al-Shabaab.

The council, which met on Thursday to consider a report on a joint assessment for the post-ATMIS security arrangement for an African Union-led mission in Somalia, expressed concerns that the full implementation of phase three drawdown could lead to capability gaps that may have significant implications for the security of Somalia and the wider region.

"The ongoing offensive operations, coupled with a simultaneous drawdown, could leave a gap for Al Shabaab to re-organise and conduct asymmetric attacks and in this regard, it reiterates the importance of force generation, regeneration, integration and capacity building both for the Federal Government of Somalia and the Federal Member States as a major component in taking over security responsibilities," the communiqué states.

The phased withdrawal of the ATMIS forces will end this year, when remnant troops will exit the country, creating room for Somali forces to take charge of its security.

The phase three drawdown had been scheduled for June, with the final exit by December 2024.

With the changes, the 4,000 personnel who were to leave this month will instead exit Somalia in two tranches: 2000 by the end of June and the rest by the end of September.

The council has directed that the ATMIS troops' withdrawal be coordinated with the follow-on mission that replaces it to ensure no security gaps between December 31 and January 1, 2025, when the post-ATMIS mission takes over.

The council will consult ATMIS, the federal government, and relevant stakeholders to develop a concept of operations for the new mission, including its configuration, mandate, deployment timelines, and the mission's duration.

The new mission will focus on the further degradation of terror group Al-Shabaab and providing security and protection for civilians, assisting the county in stabilising, enabling state-building priorities, and ensuring a coherent and orderly transfer of security responsibilities to Somalia's authorities and its increasingly capable force.

The council decided that the mission must be given a strong political mandate with scope, size, posture, composition, and duration aligning with security threats and the Somali Armed Forces' readiness and capability to assume full responsibilities.

To meet these requirements, the council will, in consultation with the UN Secretariat, develop financing options for the new mission and engage with more partners to consider options for mobilising resources for the requested phased-down approach to the stage three drawdown of ATMIS.

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