Tuesday October 20, 2020
By FRED OLUOCH
U.S. Army soldiers look out at Mogadishu, Somalia. American forces came under fire from al Shabab militants about 40 miles west of Mogadishu (James Peterson/National Geographic)
Plans by the United States to withdraw its troops from Somalia has caused anxiety among partners involved in the war against terror in the country, with appeals for Washington to reconsider its decision.
There were reports that President Donald Trump had asked his top security advisers to draw up a plan for the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia in order to fulfill a 2016 campaign promise to bring US soldiers home from places like Afghanistan, Syria, and Germany.
While the plan to withdraw from Somalia is not yet concrete, it could leave the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) less effective, given that the US troops have been providing essential aerial surveillance on Al Shabaab activities and helping in air bombardment using drones.
Somalia President Abdullahi Muhammed Farmajo tweeted that his government wants the US troops to stay. “The United States military support to Somalia has enabled us to effectively combat Al Shabab and secure the Horn of Africa. A victory through this journey and for Somali-US partnership can only be achieved through continuous security partnership and capacity building support,” he said tweeted.
The US maintains between 600 and 800 troops in Somalia that work closely with Amisom and the Somalia National Army (SNA) in combating Al Shabaab.
The US Africa Command (Africom) helped set up an elite Somali counterterrorism unit, the Danab Advanced Infantry Brigade, in which the US troops have been assisting in operations against Al-Shabaab.
The US forces have also been collaborating with Amisom, especially the Kenyan confinement, in the drone pre-emptive attacks against Al Shabaab leadership.
Amisom spokesperson Col Charles Okongo Ambiakha told The EastAfrican that it will be up to the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council to give guidance on the way forward should the US troops withdraw.
“However, we at Amison are committed to fulfilling our mandate as stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 2520 (2020), as we prepare to hand over security responsibility to Somali Security Forces by December 2021,” said Col Ambiakha.
The Resolution 2520 adopted in May while noting that the situation in Somalia continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security, directed that Amisom should maintain the deployment of 19,626 uniformed personnel until February 28, 2021, when the force is supposed to start the process for full withdraw from Somalia since it entered the country in 2007.
This includes a minimum of 1,040 Amisom police personnel including five Formed Police Units, to support security preparations for 2020/21 elections and complete the plan for the handover of security to Somali security forces.
While Amisom troops have been the target of attack by Al Shabaab, the militants in January 2020, attacked a US and Kenyan military base in Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu, killing one US serviceman and two Department of Defense contractors. In September, the US Africa Command’s director of intelligence, Heidi Berg, expressed concern that Al Shabaab was becoming more emboldened in targeting troops.
- Additional reporting by Anthony Kitimo