EXCLUSIVE: Somali Government’s eleventh-hour plea for troop extension raises questions about long-term stability. In a move that could best be described as both desperate and revealing, the Office of the President of Somalia penned a last-minute appeal dated 19 September to the President of the United Nations Security Council, copying in the Chairman of the African Union Commission.
Mogadishu, SOMALIA. By the Editorial Team:
The letter requests a delay in the withdrawal of 3,000 African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops that were slated to leave by the end of September. According to the Office of the President, the first phase of the ongoing operations in central Somalia has not been going as planned, thus necessitating an extension for a more deliberate and calculated military strategy.
The timing of the Presidential Office’s request is problematic, especially considering the African Union Peace and Security Council had just resolved on 14 September to proceed with the troop withdrawal “without any conditions.” This decision was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2628 (2022) and 2687 (2023) and emphasized the urgency to consolidate peace and security gains in Somalia. It becomes evident that the last-minute appeal for extension poses not only operational hurdles but also strains international cooperation, especially when juxtaposed with a similar incident from December.
Not the first ‘last-minute’ plea
Back in December, the Somali government also made a last-minute plea to delay the withdrawal of 2,000 ATMIS troops, causing the African Union (AU) a financial predicament to the tune of 20 million USD in debt when donors declined to cover the extension. This pattern of inconsistency creates complications that extend beyond immediate tactical considerations. It also jeopardizes long-term strategic plans both for the AU and international efforts in Somalia.
Most concerning is the Somali government’s disregard for the AU’s numerous warnings about the fast pace of troop withdrawal. Up until now, Somali authorities had insisted that the troops must leave according to the agreed-upon schedule. Moreover, the Somali government requested the AU to remove an additional 851 ATMIS police officers on 14 September. The PSC statement clearly indicates that their drawdown was not even on the initial agenda. The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) ordered their withdrawal additionally.
Although this last-minute change might positively affect immediate military operations, it adversely influences long-term planning, governance, and regional stability. Such erratic decision-making could alienate international partners and donors, which poses risks that extend beyond the immediate objectives and cast a shadow over Somalia’s future as a stable state.
An urgent need for strategy
In the larger picture, the Somali government’s recent appeals underscore the absence of a coherent, long-term strategy to manage the complex challenges facing the country. The inconsistency in strategic planning has wider implications, not just for the immediate security situation in central Somalia but also for the long-term stability and governance of the region.
As the African Union and the United Nations Security Council ponder their next steps, they must consider how to balance immediate tactical needs against the long-term goals of fostering a stable, self-sufficient Somalia. In continuing this pattern of eleventh-hour policy changes, the Somali government is playing a high-stakes game that could have serious ramifications not just for the nation but for the broader Horn of Africa. Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive, consistent, and transparent strategy.
Phase II of ATMIS withdrawal started
The first Forward Operating Base (FOB) to be handed over to Somali government forces in the Phase II drawdown was Biyo Adde (Biyo Cadde) in the Middle Shabelle region. Until 17 September, this FOB was under the responsibility of the Burundi National Defence Forces, which is part of ATMIS. The phased withdrawal of ATMIS troops has been a significant development in Somalia’s security landscape, aiming to transfer more control to Somali government forces.
ATMIS drawdown follows the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2628 (2022), 2670 (2022), and 2687 (2023), which mandates ATMIS to draw down two thousand soldiers by June 2023 and a further three thousand by the end of September 2023.