The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has welcomed the decision by the African Union to increase the number of peacekeeping troops in the warn-torn country.
AMISOM is grateful for the endorsement by the AU of the recommendations of a joint AU/UN assessment of the mission.
The joint assessment calls for not just an increase in troop numbers but also for the provision of force enablers and multipliers such as military helicopters as well as increased support for the Somali National Security Forces.
Captain Deo Akiiki, the AMISOM Force Spokesperson, says the Mission does not have any military aircraft for medical evacuations and operational support. He says it also does not have a naval component to patrol the Somali coastline, and to stop Al Shabaab infiltrating foreign terrorists, resupplying and rearming.
Akiiki says the endorsement would play greater efforts in these and accordingly hopped that the UN Security Council and other international partners will act quickly to provide resources for the urgent deployment and sustaining of the additional forces and equipment.
With the support of AMISOM, the Somali National Security Forces –SNSF have pushed the Al Shabaab out of most major urban and population centres in south-central Somalia and created room for the political and economic resurgence of the country which needs to be protected.
Akiiki says an enhancement of AMISOM and SNSF at this time will allow them to secure the Somali countryside where Al Shabaab still have freedom of movement, maintain training camps and plot and prepare attacks such as the recent atrocity at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The attack on the shopping mall on September 20 left at least 67 people dead and hundreds others injured.
More troops will also help build up the capacity of the SNSF so they can eventually assume control of the country’s security.
AMISOM already has military contingents from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Djibouti, Sierra Leone as well as two Police Units from Uganda and Nigeria. According to Akiiki some of the additional troops would only be there for a limited period of 18 to 24 months.
The African Union last Friday endorsed a move to boost its Somalia force by 35 percent to step up its fight against Al Qaeda-linked Shabaab rebels. AMISOM will be boosted by 6,235 troops, taking the total number to 24,000.
The AU said renewed efforts were needed to fight the al Shabaab in Somalia, and that it was deeply concerned by “the serious threat militants continue to pose in Somalia and in the region.
The UN-funded AMISOM mission has been in Somalia since 2007. The troops have clocked successes in recent months, and have taken over major cities including the capital Mogadishu and the key port town Kismayo.
However, key Shabaab strongholds remain, including rural southern and central Somalia, while another faction has dug into remote and rugged mountains in the northern, semi-autonomous Puntland region.