EDITORIAL: Somalia’s elusive deadline: In international affairs, the slippery slope between caution and procrastination can often be treacherous. Such is the case with Somalia’s recurring petitions for the postponement of its security transition, as evidenced most recently in a formal appeal to the United Nations Security Council.
Mogadishu, SOMALIA. By the Editorial Team:
The ostensible aim of the delay is to fine-tune the handover of Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and to reassess logistical considerations. But what remains unsaid is perhaps even more vital to understanding the larger implications. These delays indicate a worrisome pattern of indecision, muddled planning, and a false sense of self-assurance that could potentially spell disaster for the troubled nation and its international partners.
At first glance, the Somali government’s call for a “technical pause” in the drawdown of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) personnel reads like a textbook example of prudence in policymaking. With the ongoing struggle against the insurgent group al-Shabaab, the country’s fragile security situation is undeniable.
Contrasting reports within five days
On 14 September, the Somali government went to the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), reporting that the situation in the country was good and asking to proceed with the 3,000 ATMIS troops withdrawal as scheduled. Shockingly, the government even requested 851 police officers’ withdrawal in addition to the original plan. In sharp contrast to these requests, only five days later, on 19 September, Hussein Sheikh Ali, the National Security Advisor, in a letter to the UN Security Council seen by the Somali Digest, reported that the Joint Technical Assessment (JTA), outlining the impact assessment of phase I drawdown, including threat assessment in Somalia, had found that the security situation in Somalia has been dire.
This latest letter highlights the nuanced security dynamics around the FOBs and advocates for more in-depth evaluations before relinquishing control. It seems like a reasonable and responsible course of action. However, upon closer scrutiny, this narrative starts to unravel. A history of repeated delays casts a shadow on the government’s request, rendering it less a sensible pause for assessment and more a harbinger of institutional inertia.
Poor or overly optimistic planning
The cycle of optimistic projections followed by requests for deferral has become almost predictable. While some might argue that repeated delays signify conscientiousness in the face of evolving challenges, the frequency and timing of these delays suggest something less flattering. It betrays a persistent habit of poor or perhaps overly optimistic planning, along with a failure to adequately anticipate and prepare for foreseeable complications. To put it bluntly, it appears that Somalia is less wrestling with unforeseen security dynamics and more grappling with self-inflicted wounds born of poor planning and perhaps hubris.
Equally troubling is the Somali government’s assertion that it remains “fully committed” to completing the drawdown by December 2024. Such proclamations strain credulity in light of past behaviour. If the government has not adequately prepared for previous deadlines, what assurance do we have that it will be ready for the final one? What we have instead is a dwindling reservoir of international goodwill and a growing scepticism that risks not just the drawdown but also the broader peacekeeping efforts in the region. Each delay and backtrack chip away at the government’s credibility, raising questions about its capacity to manage its internal security portfolio independently.
There’s a broader lesson here that extends beyond the boundaries of Somalia. When commitment to a course of action becomes a series of optimistic projections and subsequent delays, it reflects not just on the country in question but also raises questions about the effectiveness of international oversight. The United Nations and the AU must share in the responsibility for this cycle of procrastination. If international resolutions become mere wish lists, the collective effort loses its force, and peacekeeping turns into a Sisyphean task, forever nearing but never reaching its goal.
While a “technical pause” may sound prudent, Somalia’s history of delays reveals a pattern that is anything but. The constant deferrals serve as a symptom of underlying issues that extend from domestic incapacity to international inefficacy. To move forward, Somalia, along with its international partners, needs to break this cycle of indecision and delayed implementation. Otherwise, the ultimate deadline will remain forever on the horizon, an elusive mirage in a landscape where tangible progress is urgently needed.