The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday unanimously reauthorized until July 31 the African Union Mission in Somalia to give additional time for consideration of an upcoming report.
With 22,126 personnel currently deployed, AMISOM operates with the approval of the United Nations and relies on international funding.
The mission was launched in 2007 to defend the internationally-backed government against attacks by al-Shabaab, the Somali-led al-Qaeda affiliate.
By extending AMISOM’s mandate to the end of July, the Security Council allowed for a review of recommendations expected in a “joint assessment” report on Somalia to be presented by June 15.
In its resolution, the Security Council recalled that it authorized the African Union to reduce by October 30 AMISOM’s uniformed personnel to 20,626 – to include a minimum of 1,040 police personnel.
Around 1,000 AMISOM troops were pulled out last year.
The Security Council also agreed continued U.N. logistical support for AMISOM and 70 civilian personnel, the 10,900 Somalia National Army personnel in joint operations with AMISOM, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). In March, the Security Council extended UNSOM’s mandate until March 2019.
Reform of Somali security forces and AMISOM required
In a Tuesday briefing to the Security Council, Michael Keating, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, said AMISOM “continues to play an indispensable role, at great human cost, in protecting population centres, main supply routes and Somalia’s overall political progress.”
Keating said that successful security transition will require deep reform of the Somalia security forces together transformation of AMISOM,” adding that this could entail “more flexible joint operations and combat mentoring, greater emphasis on policing, adequate enablers and force multipliers or stronger accountability systems, whether for assets or relating to human rights.”
Experts have described the bloated and largely ineffective Somali army as a collection of clan militias, with various international militaries providing poorly-coordinated training to different units.
There are plans for a full withdrawal of foreign troops by December 2020, but in March, heads of state and ministers from the main troop contributors, including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, warned the timeframe for the drawdown was “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by AMISOM.”
Al-Shabaab was blamed for the country’s worst ever attack, an October 2017 truck bombing in Mogadishu that left more than 500 dead.
Separately, the United States regularly carries out airstrikes against al-Shabaab and Abnaa ul-Calipha, Islamic State’s affiliate in Somalia. U.S. forces also train, advise and assist Somalia’s military in operations against the insurgents.
Renewed clashes in disputed northern Somali border region
Rival forces from two northern regions in Somalia, each claiming differing levels of independence from the central government in Mogadishu, clashed on Tuesday leaving casualties on both sides, officials said.
The militaries of the unrecognised breakaway northern state of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland exchanged fire in a disputed desert region.
Each side accused the other for starting the fight and claimed victory in the skirmish, which was a resumption of long-standing, sometimes deadly tensions between the neighbours.
The fighting occurred near the village of Tukaraq, between the Somaliland town of Las Anod and the Puntland town of Garowe in the disputed Sool region, in an area claimed by both states.
“They have attacked our positions from two directions this morning, but we defeated them,” said Brigadier General Nuh Ismail Tani, commander of Somaliland’s armed forces.
Puntland’s information minister, Abdi Hersi Ali, made similar claims: “Puntland forces were attacked this morning by the Somaliland troops, and the Somaliland forces were defeated,” he said.
A local elder, Abdulahi Moalim Farah, said the fighting was the heaviest for some months and that dozens of combatants may have died.
“We don’t have the exact information yet, but we are hearing that nearly 30 soldiers from the two sides have died, and more than that number were wounded,” he said.
It was unclear who was left in control of the village, while officials on neither side would confirm casualty numbers.
With reporting from AFP