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African Union Mission in Somalia

As of 2017 the African Union planned to pull out its 20,000 peacekeeping forces in Somalia in 2020. Somali troops are unprepared to fight al-Shabab on their own. More than 22,000 military and law enforcement personnel from across East Africa are participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). These men and women are tasked with assisting the Somali Federal Government in their effort to stabilize the country and foster political dialogue and reconciliation. Leading these and other African Union (AU) forces are officers from countries throughout Africa, and helping to make this level of cooperation possible is the Africa Contingency Operations Training & Assistance (ACOTA) Force Headquarters Training held at the Humanitarian Peace Support School at the International Peace Support Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya.

Lack of funding is threatening the operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an African Union (AU) official said 21 December 2017. Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, said the inadequate funding threatened the operations of peacekeepers and the Somali security forces. "Without funding, little can happen to move forward with certain undertakings already made on the security front," he said during a media briefing in Nairobi.

Madeira said AMISOM needs support to conduct the last leg of military operations to recover territory that remains under the control of Al-Shabaab militants. "We are planning elaborate offensive operations next year mainly in the Jubba valley, Gedo region and Middle Juba regions, areas that still harbor pockets of Al-Shabaab militants," said Madeira. He revealed that AMISOM has been unable to undertake military operations in the recent past due to limitations in personnel, logistics and others. "We need urgent support to recover the territories that are currently under Al-Shabaab," the envoy noted.

The Envoy observed that the Somali security forces need to be capacitated to take over the security responsibilities since the drawdown of AMISOM troops from Somalia entails the handover of some of the Forward Operating Bases in the sectors to the Somali National Army. "A stable Somalia is critical for stability across the East African region and beyond. If we do not decisively address the threat of Al-Shabaab, they will continue to pose a danger to the whole world," he warned. A review of the AU Mission in Somalia that was carried out by the African Union and the UN, during the course of the year, recommended a gradual and phased reduction and re-organization of the AU Mission.

In Somalia there was no peace to keep. So the UN is doing something out of its comfort zone, as it doesn’t have a warfighting logistics mechanism. Precise figures of AMISOM fatalities are unknown because contributing countries do not release numbers. But estimates range between 1,000 and 2,000 troops killed in operations by the end of 2016. Somalia and Afghanistan are of similar sizes, yet the amounts of money and numbers of international troops that went into Afghanistan is significantly larger compared to Somalia.

The Ethiopian intervention in 2006 created the Al Shabaab of today. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006, and Al Shabaab moved them from a fringe element of the Union of Islamic Courts to the dominant force whose ranks were swelled by anti-Ethiopian vitriol. During two years of fighting between Ethiopian troops and insurgents, more than one million people, mainly from Mogadishu, were displaced. Furthermore, an estimated 10,000 civilians were killed, with Ethiopian troops accused by local and international human rights organizations of committing atrocities against civilians and indiscriminate bombardment of built-up residential areas.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. It was created by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council on 19 January 2007 with an initial six month mandate.

AMISOM replaced and subsumed the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Peace Support Mission to Somalia or IGASOM, which was a proposed Inter-Governmental Authority on Development protection and training mission in Somalia approved by the African Union in September 2006. IGASOM was also approved by the United Nations Security Council.

Originally IGASOM was proposed for immediate implementation in March 2005 to provide peacekeeping forces for the latest phase of the Somali Civil War. At that time, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) had not yet taken control of Mogadishu, and most hopes for national unity lay with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). By May 2006, the situation was radically different, as the ICU had recently engaged the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter Terrorism or ARPCT and was fighting for control of Mogadishu in the Second Battle of Mogadishu. By June, they had established control of the capital.

Plans for IGASOM continued, though by July there were indications of opposition from the ICU, who saw the initiative as a US-backed, western means to curb the growth of Islamic movement. Until December 2006, the UN Security Council had imposed an arms embargo on the group, but the embargo was partially lifted and a mandate for IGASOM issued in December 2006.

On 20th February 2007, the United Nations Security Council authorised the African Union to deploy a peacekeeping mission with a mandate of six months, adopting resolution 1744(2007)13. The aim of the peacekeeping mission was to support a national reconciliation congress and requested a report within 60 days on a possible United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.

The United States had been a strong supporter of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) since its deployment to Mogadishu in March 2007. As of March 2011, AMISOM consisted of over 9,800 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi. AMISOM plays a critical role in supporting the Djibouti Peace Process by protecting Transitional Federal Institutions and TFG personnel, and by securing critical infrastructure in Mogadishu, including the airport and the seaport.

As of March 2012, the U.S. Government had obligated over $341 million to support AMISOM with equipment, logistical support, and peacekeeping training. U.S. equipment support has included armored personnel carriers, trucks, communications equipment, water purification devices, generators, tents, and night vision equipment. Logistical support has included airlift, food, fuel, medical supplies, and medical evacuation flights. The U.S. Government has provided peacekeeping training to the Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers through the Department of State’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.

In January 2009, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1863, which called on the United Nations to establish a logistics support package for AMISOM. By October 2009, the United States had transferred most logistics support tasks (including the provision of food, fuel, and medical evacuation flights) to the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), which the UN established to implement the logistics support package. The United States supports UNSOA and the logistics support package through its assessed contributions to the United Nations. On February 22, 2012, the UN Security Council voted to expand AMISOM’s troop cap to 17,731 and extend its mandate and logistical support package in UNSCR 2036.

By 2013 African Union, Somali, and regional forces had pushed al-Shabab out of major cities, but the militants still controlled towns and villages mostly in the south. Al-Shabab proved its ability to continue to strike at the heart of the Somali government, with a coordinated assault on the Supreme Court complex in Mogadishu in April 2013. More than 30 people were killed in the attack.

In November 2013, the UN Security Council approved the expansion of the authorized AMISOM force limit by a further 4000 troops. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this development. As a joint United NationsAfrican Union review of AMISOM had noted, following a more than two-year advance across the country, AMISOM had helped the Somali National Security Forces to push out the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab militants from most of Somalia’s major urban areas. AMISOM had, however, reached the limit of its operational strength and could not undertake further expansion without endangering the gains already made.

Though severely weakened, the Al Shabaab extremists were taking advantage of the relative freedom they had in the vast Somali countryside to regroup, plan and execute attacks against civilians in cities within the country and in the regions. The bombings in Beledweyne and Mogadishu as well as the bloody attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, all of which claimed dozens of lives, are an indicator of this. Thus the resolution to reinforce AMISOM could not have been more welcome. It is important to note that the temporary 18-24 month surge in troops was designed to expand the space and opportunity for the Somali government to reestablish state authority across South-Central Somalia, rebuild its security forces, deliver basic services to the Somali people and prepare for a constitutional referendum and elections by 2016.

The achievement of these benchmarks would set the stage for beginning of a drawdown of AMISOM with a view to its eventual exit from Somalia. Also it is important to note that the Security Council reiterated the need for the deployment of force enablers and multipliers, in particular the twelve military helicopters authorized in previous resolutions. These were crucial to enabling AMISOM to secure its supply lines in order to impede Al Shabaab’s resupply and its freedom of movement.

The extra troops and assets were urgently needed and though it was unclear where these will come from, several countries across the continent expressed a willingness to contribute to AMISOM. Given the fact that under the “Burundi model” borrowed from the 2003-2004 AU Mission in Burundi, countries deploying troops and equipment to AMISOM shoulder the costs of that deployment, backing from bilateral and multi-lateral partners in affording support from AU countries will be crucial.

Operation Eagle, which began in March 2014, year resulted in 10 significant towns being liberated. Operation Indian Ocean, which began in September 2014, focused on Somalia’s strategic coastal towns. Eight towns, including the Al-Shabaab strongholds of Barawe and Adale, had been liberated by October 2014. The towns were chosen to disrupt al-Shabaab resupply routes and then isolate each pocket of resistance for detailed destruction.

In October, 2014, the Security Council (Resolution 2182 (2014) ) gave a green light to the African Union to continue it’s mission in Somalia until 30th November 2015. Furthermore the council authorized the African Union mission to take all measures, as appropriate, to carry out support for dialogue and reconciliation by assisting with free movement, safe passage and protection of all those involved in a national reconciliation congress involving all stakeholders, including political leaders, clan leaders, religious leaders and representatives of civil society.

Since 2011, the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, has delivered blow after blow to Islamist militant group Al-Shabab, pushing the group out of nearly every major town and city it controlled. As of 2015 AMISOM’s military force was made up of soldiers from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia. Each national contingent had its own commander, who in theory is to report to AMISOM’s military chief.

AMISOM troop numbers were initially planned on the assumption that the Somali National Army would quickly develop into an effective fighting force capable of taking the lead in the fight against al-Shabab. This has not happened. The government wanted to train and equip up to 28,000 Somali soldiers but by 2015 they were not all ready.

After 18 months of successful operations that uprooted Al-Shabaab from major cities, by mid-2013 the campaign by AMISOM and Somali forces had ground to a halt. Neither AMISOM nor the Somali army had the capacity to push beyond areas already recovered. Their hold on the existing territory would be tenuous if the current status quo continued. While these forces remain largely static, Al-Shabaab is mobile and is training and recruiting substantial numbers of frustrated, unemployed young men.

Between 2011 and 2014, international support continued to increase. The AMISOM mission grew, with Kenya and Djibouti joining in 2011, Sierra Leone in 2012, and Ethiopia in 2014. AMISOM’s increase in force strength and the integration of Ethiopia, which played a major role in multinational security efforts in Somalia last year, are positive developments that will help AMISOM and Somali forces to more effectively counter al-Shabaab, particularly if the international community is able to source key enablers.

Security conditions in Somalia improved in 2014 as progress was made against al-Shabaab. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army (SNA) conducted two rounds of offensive operations liberating several al-Shabaab-held towns in south-central Somalia, including the lucrative port city of Baraawe. Somali militia participated in these operations, but they remain unable to maintain control of cleared areas primarily due to endemic corruption and underlying clan dynamics.

On 26 June 2015, an al-Shabab attack exposed weaknesses in AMISOM as well as Somalia’s national army, which often works with the AU force in operations against al-Shabab. Foremost among the problems are a shortage of helicopters and personnel and a lack of coordination among AMISOM contingents.

After initial territorial gains, Somali authorities say AMISOM forces had been largely confined to their barracks since early 2015. This is in part due to certain suspicion surrounding the peacekeepers. It is having problems holding onto and establishing a presence in the territories that it has retaken. In Somalia, especially, there is a suspicion about what the troop contributing countries’ interests are in the country, and that they may not be operating for the greater good of Somalia.

Against the backdrop of increasingly sophisticated attacks by Al -Shabaab, the participants in a summit of Heads of State and Government of AMISOM troop- contributing countries, held in Djibouti on 28 February 2016, stressed the need for improved command and control. They also noted with concern the decision by the European Union to reduce financial support to the AMISOM troop allowance by 20 per cent at a crucial juncture. In addition, they emphasized the need for better coordination of operations and logistics between AMISOM, the national security forces and UNSOS.

Efforts to improve the performance of AMISOM were also the focus of a meeting of the African Union-United Nations joint task force on peace and security, held on 22 March. Following up on the work of the joint task force, a joint African Union-United Nations working group was established to develop options for improving the effectiveness of AMISOM operations and securing predictable funding for its uniformed personnel. During the inaugural meeting, held in Addis Ababa from 15 to 19 April, the working group identified priority initiatives aimed at improving AMISOM command and control.

AMISOM is stretched - 22,000 troops is not adequate to control the whole of south-central Somalia. But importantly, it is not just a question of numbers; it is often a question of mobility and the ability to project firepower rapidly to specific areas. AMISOM is crucially lacking the military aviation units and rapid reaction forces that are available in other multinational forces.

There is a sense of "incoordination" among the heads of the six national contingents whose soldiers make up the AMISOM military force. Some commanders are not taking orders directly from AMISOM commanders. Instead they are seeking direction from their countries. There is not even a plan to reinforce each other when attacked.

The lack of access to main supply routes, however, remained a challenge, with UNSOS continuing to supply 70 per cent of AMISOM forward operating bases and other locations by air. The introduction of military air assets is an important aspect of the efforts of AMISOM to adopt a more mobile and offensive posture. The pledges by Kenya and Ethiopia of two and three attack helicopters, respectively, will be an important contribution in this regard. A continuing gap, however, remained the provision or reimbursement of ammunition, which fell outside the scope of the logistics support package and would have to be covered by either the troop- contributing countries or through bilateral assistance from Member States. In support efforts to enhance the mobility of AMISOM, UNMAS has established a presence at the force headquarters integrated support office of AMISOM in Mogadishu and a joint office with AMISOM in Beledweyne, enhancing technical advice and planning support as it pertains to explosive hazard management and mitigation.

In October 2016 Ethiopia began withdrawing troops from Somalia. The redeployment highlighted problems with the international community’s funding of military operations in Africa. The Ethiopian troops had been assisting the internationally funded African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The draw-down could imperil Somalia’s chances of becoming a viable nation state. Since the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) withdrew its forces, by the end of 2016 the Al Shabaab Islamic insurgency had already retaken a number of towns across south and central Somalia. The withdrawn Ethiopian soldiers made up most of a force of 4,000 that operated outside of — but provided crucial support to — the multi-African AMISOM mission, which also included an additional 4,000 Ethiopia troops. Ethiopian troops know the land, they’re used to the temperatures, they are the only ones who have previous experience fighting both guerrilla and conventional warfare. ENDF troops are militarily effective against Al Shabaab but potentially politically toxic with the local population, especially the further they move from the Ethiopian border. Ethiopian troops are the main ones that are mobile and taking the fight to Al Shabaab, while the rest of AMISOM usually stay in Mogadishu or a few major bases. The Ethiopian troops outside of AMISOM, however, didn’t qualify for any of the international funding or UN-backed logistical support that AMISOM receives.

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Page last modified: 20-06-2018 14:32:13 ZULU