The United Nations Security Council decided Friday to cut 1,000 troops from a regional peacekeeping force in Somalia, despite a rise in attacks by the Al-Shabaab militia in Mogadishu.
The council voted unanimously to draw down the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), but left the door open for the council to revisit that decision if violence worsens. The resolution put forward by Britain reduces AMISOM troops by 1,000 to a ceiling of 19,626 by February 28, but maintains 1,040 police. The force’s mandate was extended for a year.
Under a transition plan agreed in 2017, AMISOM will gradually hand over security to Somali forces, but the African Union has raised concern about the extra responsibility as the country heads to elections next year.
The United Nations is seeking to shore up stability in Somalia, where Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters have been seeking to topple the government for a decade. The Shabaab were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 by AMISOM, and have had to abandon most of their strongholds, but they still control vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia.
A joint AU-UN security review presented to the council this month raised alarm over a surge of Shabaab attacks in the capital including a January 1 mortar assault on the UN compound. In March alone, Al-Shabaab carried out two major attacks in Mogadishu using 28 improvised explosive devices, said the review. Last week, a former Somali foreign minister was among five people killed in a car bombing in Mogadishu that was claimed by the Shabaab. AMISOM was established in 2007 and includes troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda deployed in south and central Somalia.