After 18 years and three multinational peace missions, Somalia is taking full control of its own security. The African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is withdrawing troops from the embattled Horn of Africa nation.
The African Union was withdrawing troops gradually and strategically, sector by sector, with an eye toward ending ATMIS by December 31, 2024. Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda contribute troops to the mission.
As ATMIS troops withdrew, Somali troops were finishing training abroad. The goal was to have 15,000 Soldiers ready by the end of 2023, Hussein Sheikh-Ali, national security advisor to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has said.
The plan is to turn security over to Somali forces while consolidating and preserving gains made against the al-Shabaab insurgency by ATMIS and the African Union Mission in Somalia, which preceded ATMIS from 2007 to 2022.
Amani Africa, an Addis Ababa, Ethiopia-based policy think tank, noted in an April 28, 2023, report that ATMIS continues to face a “dire funding shortfall” as the transition continues. Despite that, ATMIS has made “notable progress” by conducting joint kinetic operations with Somali security forces against al-Shabaab militants since August 2022.
A four-phase plan would see ATMIS troop levels decrease from the current 18,586 to just more than 9,500 at the end of the transition period in late 2024. Somalia intends to gradually ramp up its force levels to about 23,000 and take over when ATMIS fully withdraws.
As the first troop withdrawal approached, presidents of ATMIS troop-contributing countries met April 27, 2023, in Entebbe, Uganda, to discuss the mission and the impending drawdown. The officials issued a communique after their meeting calling for “increased logistical support to the Somali Security Forces” and reaffirming United Nations Security Council resolutions seeking a “strategic, gradual, and sector-by-sector approach to the drawdown.” The communique also underscored the importance of force protection such as aviation support. The document also asks that the Security Council lift the arms embargo on Somalia so that the country can meet its security needs.
The communique asks the AU and its partners to provide funding adequate to sustain ATMIS through the end of its mandate.