Mogadishu, Somalia – The African Union (AU) has rejected Somalia’s request for a 90-day “technical pause” in the ongoing drawdown of AU troops in the country, despite concerns over resurgent attacks by the Al-Shabab militant group.
The AU Peace and Security Council announced on Wednesday that the planned withdrawal of 3,000 troops by the end of September would continue as scheduled. The troops are part of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which took over operations from the previous AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) last year.
Somalia had appealed to the UN Security Council earlier this month to halt the drawdown, warning of “an imminent threat” from Al-Shabab. The group has stepped up attacks in recent weeks, including a 30-hour hotel siege in Mogadishu that killed 21 people.
But the AU insisted the security transition remains on course. Troop levels will be reduced from nearly 20,000 last year to 14,000 by the end of September. The drawdown aims to gradually transfer security responsibilities to Somali National Army Forces, with the ultimate goal of a full exit by the end of 2024.
Critics have warned the withdrawals are premature given the ongoing threat posed by the militants. But the AU stated the transition plan was “well considered, methodical and gradual” and said additional support would be provided to Somali forces.
Somalia’s international partners have also raised concerns about gaps in funding and capabilities within the Somali security forces. But the AU said Somalia’s leadership had provided assurances that plans are on track for the full transfer of security by the December 2024 deadline.