Mogadishu(Mogadishu24)-At the end of 2024, all African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) forces are expected to leave, and the Somali Security Forces will assume the country’s total security responsibilities.

How the peacekeeping mission in Somalia began

On February 21, 2007, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the deployment of troops from the African Union to Somalia, which, at that time, was in a state of insecurity that could have led to the collapse of the functional government.

In March 2007, the first Ugandan soldier landed at Aden Adde Airport in Mogadishu, and several African countries then joined the peacekeeping mission, initially called AMISOM. 

Burundi’s troops arrived in December 2007, followed by Hiil-Walal forces from Djibouti in December 2011, and Kenya in February 2012. Ethiopia, arriving on January 22, 2014, became the last country to join AMISOM.

On April 1, 2022, the mission’s name changed from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to African Union Transitional Mission (ATMIS).

Since the start of the peacekeeping mission, 4,000 soldiers have died in Somalia, according to the African Union Representative in Somalia.

During AMISOM’s presence, it supported the Somali Government in securing important places in the capital, such as the airport, port, and government offices like the statehouse and the parliament. It also contributed to the elimination of Al-Shabaab from important cities.

However, there are continuous criticisms that AMISOM did not do enough to weaken the power of Al-Shabaab, which remains a strong threat.

ATMIS Drawdown and the formation of the Somali Army

In 2020, the Somali government requested the United Nations to end the mission of African troops and support the building of a Somali army capable of taking responsibility for security.

The army-building plan aims to increase the number of soldiers to 60,000, replacing each ATMIS soldier with 3 Somali soldiers.

Somalia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Omar (Ali Balcad), stated that progress has been made in rebuilding the army and weakening the power of Al-Shabaab. 

“The President’s initial move was to establish an army, with approximately ten thousand soldiers trained within the first year. Following that, he proceeded to declare a total war against Al-Shabaab,” said Minister Balcad.

He emphasized several challenges the president faced such as not weakening Al-Shabaab, withdrawal of ATMIS forces, and building a sufficiently powerful army.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced a three-sided war against Al-Shabaab five months after his re-election. This war involves financial, ideological and military war.

“The government I lead is determined to end the long-term conflict with Al-Shabaab terrorists until we totally eliminate them,” said President Mohamud.

After this declaration of war, the government forces, supported by local community forces and international partners, recaptured a large area in Hirshabeelle and Galmdug regional administrations.

Former NISA Commander, General Abdirahman Tuuryare, expressed confidence that the Somali Army has the ability to fight Al-Shabaab and secure the country’s internal and border security.

“The Somali Armed Forces are not where they were a year ago today in terms of their morale, training, experience, and courage,” emphasized former NISA Commander, General Abdirahman Tuuryare.

Current ATMIS role in operations 

There are accusations against ATMIS that they did not actively participate in the latest battles against Al-Shabaab. 

However, the commander of ATMIS, Sam Skidding, clarified that their duty is limited to providing support to the Somali Security Forces, not to launch direct attacks against Al-Shabaab.

“We are on a mission because there is a difference between the duties of AMISOM and ATMIS. In the past, AMISOM was in the lead, but ATMIS is now assisting the Somali Armed Forces, which lead the operations,” said Commander Sam Okiding..

Somalia’s Security Transition After ATMIS Withdrawal 

With only 12 months left to complete the withdrawal of ATMIS, some Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) have already been handed over to the Somalia Security Forces, including the Villa Somalia, the parliament House, and some ministerial headquarters.

Speaking at the 80th anniversary of the Somali Police on Wednesday, president Mohamud expressed pride in the fact that the presidency, parliament, and ministers’ security are now being handled by the Somalia Security Forces for the first time in three decades.

“This is the first time our presidency (Villa Somalia) is not guarded by foreign forces; the parliament and the ministers’ security have also been handed over to the Somalia Security Forces,” stated President Mohamud.

Somalia’s Minister of Information, Daud Aweis Jaama, described the transfer of security as an important step, showing Somalia is ready to fully take over security.

“After 16 years of joint management by AU forces and Somali forces, the Somali forces will now be solely responsible for safeguarding these crucial facilities. With the recent adoption of the SSP in New York, the Somali government is set to assume sole responsibility for its security,” said Minister Daud Aweis.

The second phase of the drawdown was delayed for three months after the federal government requested a 90-day technical pause. Two FOBs, Biyocade and Ragaceele, had already been handed over in September and October, respectively.

In June 2023, 2,000 ATMIS soldiers were withdrawn from the country, part of the plan to withdraw 20,000 soldiers by the end of 2024.

Al Balcad, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, believes the departure of ATMIS will not adversely affect the security and stability of the country, citing cities like Garowe and Hargeisa where foreign troops are not present but remain peaceful.

General Tuuryare expressed concern about how the government will manage the transition period and the areas vacated by ATMIS forces but is hopeful that operations against Al-Shabaab will be completed by the end of the year. 

Somalia’s takeover of its security responsibilities is a new test by the international community on the government’s ability, to be witnessed in Somalia’s actions to face the new challenge in the coming days.

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