2,000 troops withdrawn from Somalia as ATMIS begins drawdown

Xaaji Cali Forward Operating Base handover to Somalia National Army. [ATMIS]

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) has started the partial withdrawal of its troops from Somalia.

The drawdown of 2,000 troops in compliance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions has seen the Xaaji Cali Forward Operating Base (FOB) handed over to the Somalia National Army.

The FOB was under the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of ATMIS Burundi National Defence Forces (BNDF).

An operations order has already been released, and the joint technical committee team is on schedule to meet the June 30, 2023, deadline.

The drawdown will not, however, impact security for key government installations and major population centres as Somalia Special Forces take over.

ATMIS will continue to conduct both joint targeted and routine operations to degrade terror group Al-Shabaab.

A section of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops. [ATMIS]

In Mogadishu, and other regions, ATMIS provides security to population centres, main supply routes, key government institutions, including Parliament, presidential palaces, seaports, airports, and airfields.

ATMIS will also provides security to enable Humanitarian actors deliver much-needed food and emergency relief items to communities in need and remote areas.

The commander of ATMIS BNDF 2nd Battle Group in Xaaji Cali, Lt Col Richard Bimenyimana, officially handed over the facility to the Somali National Army (SNA) Commander in the area, Maj. Bashir Abukar Ahmed.

“Over the years, we have worked closely with the SNA, and this cooperation has significantly contributed to improved stability and security in this area. Today’s handing over forms part of the transfer of security responsibilities,” said Lt. Col. Musau.

The SNA commander for Xaaji Cali, Maj. Bashir, thanked ATMIS for the facility noting that the handover was the culmination of cordial working relationships between ATMIS and SNA troops.

“We have always had good working relations with ATMIS throughout their operations here. Now that they are handing over as mandated, we are happy to take over security responsibilities,” said Maj Bashir.

ATMIS brief during a past operation. ATMIS provides security to population centres, main supply routes and key government institutions. [ATMIS]

As part of the handover, UNSOS, which provides logistical support to ATMIS, left behind a borehole, water treatment and storage equipment, generators, solar panels, associated electrical distribution equipment, refrigerators, and freezers.

Xaaji Cali is located about 70km northeast of Mogadishu. It is part of seven FOBs to be handed over from ATMIS to the SNA by the end of June 2023.

In January, ATMIS handed over Maslah FOB to the Federal Government of Somalia.

Last month, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) and ATMIS said they had identified and agreed on Forward Operating Bases to be handed over or to be collapsed.

The Head of ATMIS, who was on an official visit to ATMIS Sector 5 headquarters in Jowhar, said while ATMIS gradually reduces the number of soldiers on the ground, the Somali Security Forces will increase its numbers to take over the areas that ATMIS will hand over.

ATMIS troops on patrol. [ATMIS]

The drawdown comes amid an increased attack on troops' operation bases. The latest attack happened on Tuesday where a suicide bomber attacked civilians who were being recruited to join the Somalia National Army.

The attack came less than 10 days after Uganda People’s Defence Force lost 54 soldiers after Al-Shabaab militants overrun its base in Somalia.

While confirming the attack, President Yoweri Museveni told the National Resistance Movement parliamentary caucus that one commander was among the soldiers killed in the deadly attack on its Forward Operations Base (FOB).