The Somali government has asked the UN for a three-month postponement of the withdrawal of troops from the African Union planned for the end of September, after having suffered “several significant setbacks” in its offensive against the radical Islamists Shebab, according to a letter consulted by the ‘AFP.
“The federal government of Somalia officially requests a three-month technical pause in the withdrawal of 3,000 uniformed personnel from the Transitional African Union Mission in Somalia (Atmis),” writes the Somali president’s national security adviser, Hussein Cheikh Ali, in a letter dated September 19.
A diplomatic source confirmed the authenticity of the letter and another source close to the matter also told AFP that such a request had been made by the Somali government.
AFP contacted several government officials, who made no comment.
This second phase of withdrawal, from 17,626 to 14,626 men, must take place on September 30, according to the timetable provided for in a UN resolution giving a mandate to Atmis, which succeeded Amisom in April 2022.
The Somali government has been carrying out a military offensive in the center of the country for more than a year which has made it possible to “liberate towns, villages and crucial supply routes”, underlines the national security adviser in the letter.
But the Somali forces suffered “several significant setbacks” at the end of August. “This unforeseen turn of events has put our military forces to the test (…) and required a thorough reorganization to ensure that we maintain our momentum in the fight against the Shebab threat,” he adds.
The Somali government, supported by the international community, has been fighting for more than 15 years the insurgency of the radical Islamists Shebab, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda which wants to establish Islamic law in this country in the Horn of Africa.