Ethiopia, along with the four other eastern African countries contributing troops in Somalia, endorsed Somalia’s plea to suspend the withdrawal of the troops by 90 days.
As a result, 3000 soldiers who were initially slated to withdraw from Somalia on September 30, 2023 have had their withdrawal extended by three more months. Burundi, Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda, which comprise the five troop contributing states along with Ethiopia, have also agreed to Somalia’s last minute request.
The Somalia government wrote a letter to the UN, requesting “a technical pause to the drawdown of the 3,000 ATMIS uniform personnel by 90 days.”
Somalia’s request is backed by the five troops contributors to the African Union Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs). Signed by top officials of the five countries, the letter submitted to the UN was issued on September 25, 2023. From Ethiopia’s side, the letter was signed by Demeke Mekonen, deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
Since 2022, ATMIS has been the reconfigured name of AMISOM, a peacekeeping mission fighting al-Shabab in Somalia since 2007, which was initially formed for just a six-month period.
The UN decided to liquidate ATMIS by December 2024 by withdrawing the troops in phases. Under the first phase, 2000 ATMIS troops evacuated from Somalia in past June 2023. This brought the number of uniformed ATMIS personnel troops in Somalia to 16,586.
Under the second phase, 3000 troops were supposed to evacuate by September 30, 2023, but this is now barred following Somalia’s request. Withdrawal of the 3000 troops under the second phase is now delayed by three months.
The UN did not make changes to the December 2024 deadline, while Somalia requested that international partners provide funds to cover the costs of the 3000 troops for the extended period.
Before proceeding with the withdrawal under the second phase, the AU, UN, and Somalia government will undertake assessments and draw lessons from the security gaps created after the withdrawal of 2000 troops last June.
Al-Shabab’s renewed attack on August 26, 2023 in the Caswayne area of the Galguduud region is the driving factor behind Somalia government’s request for the extension of the ATMIS troops’ stay.
As per the initial agreement, ATMIS hands over its operation bases to the Somali National Army, Somali National Police Force, militia, and other support forces under the Somalia government.
The newly elected president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has managed to launch successful offensives on al-Shabab strongholds in the past months. Reports have also emerged that the Somalia public has fully supported the new president’s campaigns. The Somalia government initially planned to deploy 12,000 troops of its own in the areas where the 5000 ATMIS troops would have evacuated under the first and second phases.
Nonetheless, al-Shabab has managed to launch attacks including in Ethiopia’s troop sector areas.
“It is the usual frantic effort of al-Shabab. It does not indicate al-Shabab has the capacity to revive. The Somalia government requested the suspension of the ATMIS troops withdrawal for some time. The support continues until Somalia security forces fully overtake the areas that have been covered by ATMIS troops. Then the drawdown will continue,” Abebe Muluneh (Commander), head of the IGAD security sector program, told The Reporter.