Mogadishu, Somalia — 1 July 2023
The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) announced on Thursday that it has successfully completed the first phase of its scheduled troop withdrawal from Somalia, handing over key military bases in the capital city of Mogadishu, as well as the Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, and Lower Juba regions, to the Somali Security Forces (SSF).
Among the handed-over facilities were the Aljazeera One Training Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Mogadishu and Gherille FOB in Jubaland State. ATMIS Sector One Commander, Brig. Gen. Peter Omola, oversaw the transfer of the Mogadishu base, while Gherille FOB Commander, Maj. Shitanda Terence Soita facilitated the handover in Jubaland.
This step concludes the transfer of a total of six FOBs to the control of the SSF, while the Marka Ayub facility has been closed. These moves are in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 2628 and 2670, which mandate ATMIS to withdraw an estimated 2,000 troops by the end of June. Once this is completed, the ATMIS troop count in Somalia will stand at 17,626.
Looking ahead, ATMIS is planning for Phase 2 of the drawdown, scheduled for 30 September, which will further reduce its forces to 14,626 troops.
The strategic importance of this phased withdrawal cannot be overstated. The ability of the SSF to maintain control and security in the absence of ATMIS forces will be crucial in determining the success of the overall drawdown strategy and the impact on Somalia’s future stability.
Simultaneously, there are concerns about the possible resurgence of Al-Shabaab, the extremist group that has been responsible for the insurgency in Somalia for over a decade.
Analysts will be watching closely to evaluate the SSF’s capability to consolidate and protect the gains made in the ongoing fight against Al-Shabaab. The balance between restoring Somalia’s sovereignty and maintaining regional stability presents a significant challenge.
The ultimate outcome of this phased drawdown will not only shape the future of Somalia’s security but also reflect upon the effectiveness of ATMIS’s long-term strategy. With high stakes at play, the ripple effects of this transitional period will be felt across the entire Horn of Africa region.