23.11.2022: Mogadishu, Somalia
An African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) communique released this afternoon for the first time publicly sheds light on the Somali Federal Government’s request to the AUPSC to extend ATMIS Phase I withdrawal plans.
Following a summit held by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on November 11th, the AUPSC outlined its support for the Somali Government’s wishes to delay the Phase I withdrawal by ATMIS which would have seen 2,000 African Union soldiers withdrawal from Somalia between December 2022 to June 2023.
Instead, the Communique states that Somalia and the African Union agreed to work jointly alongside the United Nations to “submit a joint report, no later than 15 February 2023” to outline a new transition plan. Nevertheless, the Communique also highlighted the AUPSC reaffirmed commitment to “maintaining the exit date of 31 December 2024 by ATMIS“.
However, many are asking themselves how the extension on Phase I withdrawal could affect the overall withdrawal of ATMIS by December 2024. Indeed, an extension could result in two outcomes:
- Outcome 1: ATMIS increase the number of soldiers being withdrawn during the various phases leading up to December 2024
- Outcome 2: Maintain the current withdraw numbers but extend the final withdrawal date
Despite the Communique unequivocally stating that the African Union is committed to the 2024 deadline, the Communique initially released in March 2022 also outlined that the AU was committed to Phase I withdrawal date of December 2022 but there clearly is a U-turn following a request from Mogadishu under the Mahmoud administration.
The simple fact that the Communique released today clearly states that there will be a joint report between Somalia, AU and UN “to guide” the AUPSC on how long of an extension is required, leaves the door open to any alteration of the current Somali Transition Plan.
New Leadership Supporting Extension
The Somali Government was represented by the President’s National Security Advisor (NSA), Hussein Sheikh-Ali who delivered a keynote statement at the AUPSC summit that was held in Addis Ababa just under two weeks ago.
Mr Sheikh-Ali is known to have previously opposed the Somali Transition Plan proposed during the Farmaajo Administration, instead conveying that the withdrawal of ATMIS troops would be detrimental to Somalia’s security, referencing the collapse of the Afghan government in 2021 as a prime example of what could happen to Somalia if ATMIS withdrew by 2024. He consistently argued on his Twitter page prior to appointment as NSA that Al-Shabab would capture the capital within months – a statement he received condemnation for as it belittled the capabilities of the Somali National Army which has been praised by both the African Union and UN Security Council that ultimately approved the Somali Transition Plan.
A Good or Bad Decision?
The reality is that the current war against Al-Shabab is being led by the Somali National Army (SNA) and the local clan militia known as Macawisley. According to the recent statement released by the Office of the Prime Minister, the joint local and national army force have liberated dozens of towns and killed over 600 militants since August.
The ATMIS contingencies in Somalia have yet to begin an actual operation against Al-Shabab militants. In fact, reports suggest that the ATMIS units have not conduct a full blown offensive against Al-Shabab in years. ATMIS is nearly 22,000 strong whereas Al-Shabab is less than 10,000 strong. 16 years later, Al-Shabab still remains a threat across central and southern Somalia including the capital, Mogadishu.
Recent operations conducted by SNA units with Macawisley prove that Somalia and Somalis are more than capable to defend their own territory against Al-Shabab. The millions being spent by the EU and the United States to support ATMIS could easily be used to develop and train the SNA and other security capabilities of the Somali Government such as NISA.
So one has to ask themselves, why does Somalia need to extend a failed intervention by foreign troops? They have had 16 years to deliver, they have failed miserably and it is now the locals that are forced to fend off Al-Shabab in the midst of a severe drought and extreme poverty as African Union soldiers watch on from their barracks.