Friday February 9, 2024
ATMIS Sector Commanders and senior military officers follow discussions during a four-day conference held at the Force Headquarters in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 4 January 2024. ATMIS Photo/Moses Odanga
Mogadishu (HOL) - Senior military commanders of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) concluded a key four-day conference on Thursday to finalize plans for an upcoming offensive against Al Shabaab insurgents and a significant troop withdrawal scheduled for June.Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef, the African Union Special Representative for Somalia and Head of ATMIS, stressed the importance of civilian protection and the challenges ahead. "We are now moving into the most critical stage of the mission because by June, we are going to draw down additional troops, and you have to take into consideration force protection. It's not easy, but we must surmount the challenges by remaining on the maximum alert during the transition period," he added, emphasizing the need for vigilance and strategic foresight.
The conference, a critical step in the mission's phased exit from Somalia, addressed comprehensive security assessments, the effectiveness of previous troop reductions, and plans for environmental protection and future security post-ATMIS. Lt. Gen. Sam Okiding, ATMIS Force Commander, reflected on the discussions, noting, "We have deliberated on a wide range of issues. We examined Somalia's security situation and put into consideration the current Al-Shabaab posture as well as our mandate.
To date, ATMIS has pulled out 5,000 troops and handed over 13 military bases to the SSF, with an additional 4,000 troops set to leave by June. The drawdown is part of the African Union's commitment to transfer security responsibilities to Somalia by the end of 2024, despite concerns over potential security gaps following recent setbacks in the fight against Al Shabaab.