Somali army ready to take control of the country

2023 11 21T152027Z 1 LYNXMPEJAK0LF RTROPTP 4 SOMALIA POLITICS PRESIDENT
FILE PHOTO: Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud participates in a Peace, Security and Governance Forum during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit 2022 in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo

On Tuesday, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud expressed confidence that the Somali army would be prepared to assume control as the African Union forces are going to withdraw from the country by the end of 2024. Mohamoud considered the current status of the offensive against the radical Islamists al-Shabaab on hold at the moment as encouraging, citing substantial progress made since its launch in August 2022 in the country’s centre. While the offensive, supported by the African Union force (African Transition Mission in Somalia – ATMIS), initially showed significant advances, it has faced recent stagnation.

The Somali army, in collaboration with clan militias, had received support from ATMIS, composed of troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. ATMIS was initially set to begin a second phase of withdrawal in September, involving the departure of 3,000 troops. However, the Somali government requested and was granted a three-month postponement due to setbacks and difficulties in reorganisation.

President Mohamoud, speaking at a conference in London organised by the Royal United Services Institute, acknowledged the challenges faced during the postponement period but assured that they are now ready to take over by December.

Regarding potential future requests for deadline extensions, Mohamoud stated that they would not seek further delays, emphasizing ongoing efforts to address the shortage of trained soldiers. He expressed confidence that, by 2024, as the withdrawal continues, additional forces will be created, allowing the country to assume responsibility for its security. Mohamoud reiterated the government’s commitment to a second phase of the offensive, targeting the southwest and Jubaland, a historical stronghold of the al-Shaabab.

The Somali president believes that military defeat of the insurgents would be imminent, but cautioned that eliminating the ideological aspect of the Islamist movement would take longer, especially in areas under prolonged control. Despite international community support, the government primarily controls cities, with al-Shaabab maintaining a presence in significant areas of the south and centre.

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