Thursday, January 16, 2014
by Oscar Nkala
The Djibouti Armed Forces (DJAF) have taken delivery of 26 new Toyota Land Cruiser 4X4 vehicles from the United States through the Foreign Military Assistance Programme as logistical and operational support to for the deployment of an additional 1 000 DJAF troops to reinforce the African Union (AU) soldiers battling Al Shabaab insurgents in the Beledweyne region of Somalia.
According to the United States embassy in Djibouti, the consignment (which consists of 14 Toyota Land Cruiser 2x4 pick-up trucks and 12 Toyota Land 4x4 pick-up trucks) was handed over to Djiboutian defence minister Hassan Darar Houffaneh and armed forces chief General Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim by US ambassador Geeta Pasi in the capital Djibouti City on December 30.
The DJAF will this week deploy the first 100 of a full strength contingent of 1 000 men to support African Union troops battling the Al Shabaab insurgency in the Hiran area of the Beledweyne region in terms of the security mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The new deployment will bring the number of DJAF troops in Somalia to 1 980. The troop surge was approved by the United Nations Security Council on November 12 last year and allows for the temporary deployment of an additional 4 400 AU troops in Somalia to maintain security.
The additional troops will also form a rapid reaction force capable of responding to the increased security threats posed by Al Shabaab, Hizbul Islam and their smaller Islamic militia affiliates operating in the central, southern and coastal areas of Somalia.
The resolution, which also extended the AMISOM mandate in Somalia to October 31 this year, will bring the total number of AU troops in Somalia to 22 126. The UN said the deployments will only be scaled back after a period of 18-24 months as part of a final exit strategy for AU troops in Somalia.
The Security Council also recommended that the Somali National Army (SNA) be provided with a package of non-lethal support which includes transport, food, fuel, shelter and medical assistance through a trust fund to help expand its scope and area of its security operations.
Djibouti has been a recipient of US military aid before – for instance, in April last year the US Department of State provided the Djiboutian navy with two Metal Shark 28 Defiant high-speed aluminium coastal security boats to protect its borders and combat piracy, smuggling and terrorist threats. Djibouti is also home to a US military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) base at Chabelley airfield and hosts foreign aircraft used for anti-piracy operations at Camp Lemonnier.