Somalia requests a slower AU troop withdrawal to combat terrorism

The African Union (AU) is considering a request from Somalia to slow down the planned withdrawal of its peacekeeping forces deployed against the militant group Al-Shabaab.

Somalia’s fragile government faces a persistent insurgency from Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. 

UN resolutions mandate the gradual reduction of the AU mission, known as ATMIS, with a complete withdrawal by the end of 2024.

However, Somali officials argue they need more time to ensure security before taking full responsibility.

The current phase of the withdrawal calls for the departure of 4,000 ATMIS troops by June’s end. 

Somalia has requested the extension of half this number until September, citing the need for an offensive operation against Al-Shabaab. 

The group, though expelled from the capital Mogadishu in 2011 by AU forces, maintains a strong foothold in rural areas, launching attacks against Somali and neighboring countries’ security forces and civilians.

An AU official anonymously confirmed the request and anticipated a favorable response from the AU’s Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa on Thursday. 

However, extending the mission poses financial challenges. The EU is the primary financial contributor to ATMIS, and any changes require approval from the UN Security Council.

With over 17,000 fighters, Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat. Last week, a roadside bomb planted by the group killed six Somali soldiers, including a senior commander, highlighting the ongoing security concerns that Somalia faces.

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