UN sanctions AU’s strategic retreat from Somalia

New York (Caasimada Online) – In a significant move towards complete disengagement, the United Nations Security Council recently decided to extend the mandate of the African Union’s forces in Somalia for an additional six months.

However, the authorization is coupled with the continuation of a systematic drawdown of personnel, a process initiated earlier.

On Tuesday, the Council announced the timeline for the departure of an additional 3,000 soldiers by September.

This marks the second withdrawal phase following the removal of 2,000 personnel, which is nearly completed, according to Deputy Somali Ambassador Mohamed Rabi Yusuf.

Yusuf confirmed that the Somali government would collaborate with the African Union for the necessary arrangements for the next phase.

A shift in the peacekeeping landscape

The African Union has been a significant presence in the country since 2007 when the Security Council approved the creation of AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia).

By April 2022, a change was deemed necessary, and AMISOM was replaced by ATMIS (African Transitional Mission in Somalia).

The ATMIS force, empowered with a strengthened mandate to combat the Al-Shabaab Islamists, operated with over 19,000 soldiers and police officers.

However, the Security Council has outlined plans for the number to reduce to zero by 2024, slowly transitioning the responsibilities to the Somali forces.

The resolution, unanimously adopted on Tuesday, imposed a new cap on uniformed personnel at 14,626 from October 1 to December 31, 2023.

Yet, the Council demonstrated its adaptability, stating it is “ready to review these figures” based on the evaluation of a technical assessment due on September 15.

The African Union and Somalia will provide the assessment and detail the first phase of the drawdown and a “clear plan and timetable” for the remaining transition.

Security concerns and dilemmas

Despite the apparent progress Somalia has made against Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab, the resolution voiced “grave concern” that the group continues to threaten Somalia and the region’s peace and stability.

“We should not be hasty when it comes to withdrawing the African peacekeeping mission from Somalia,” Deputy Russian Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva argued, warning against creating a security vacuum.

Despite these security challenges, Somalia has renewed its calls to lift an arms embargo.

“The partial UN arms embargo on Somalia hinders the federal government of Somalia’s ability to adequately resource its security forces to counter the evolving threat of Al-Shabaab,” Yusuf stated.

In November, the Security Council extended the arms embargo, established in 1992.

Although it no longer applies to arms deliveries intended for the Somali security forces’ development, the UN sanctions committee must be notified of such deliveries.

In the case of certain heavy weapons, the committee may object. According to the Somali government, these restrictions limit their ability to deal with the threat Al-Shabaab poses effectively.