AU mission aligns forces to protect Somalis, denies withdrawal

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has denied withdrawing its troops from bases in Somalia, saying the strategic move of aligning forces is aimed at flushing out the al-Shabab militant group.

The AU mission instead expressed its commitment in supporting the Somali government to defeat al-Shabab and free the Somali population from the oppressive evils of the militant group’s extortion and summary killings.

“The AMISOM forces have not been withdrawn but the sectors are strategically aligning their forces to protect the Somali population and degrade al-Shabab and deny them freedom of movement,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement comes amid recent abandonment of military bases in the country by Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers, stoking fears the move will expose the country to al-Shabab threats.

The Kenyan troops started withdrawing from Somalia after moving out of Busar, KDF’s command center in the northern sector of Jubaland, a town that was liberated in the first 100 days of their entry into Somalia.

The KDF operated bases in Bardera, Busar and El Adde and reports said the troops have since abandoned the regions, including forwarding operating bases in the southern region. However, the AU mission termed the move as tactical.

The AU mission said it is preparing for condition-based handover of national security responsibility to Somalia Security Forces as stipulated in UN Security Council resolution 2431 and in line with Somalia transition plan.

The resolution calls for a reduction of uniformed personnel and increased presence of the AU police in the country, to support the expansion and maintenance of law and order as security responsibilities transition to the Somali security forces.

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