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US asks Amisom troops to stay on in Somalia, pledges support

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The UN directive for a phased withdrawal of African peacekeepers from Somalia next month has been opposed by the US, which believes the timing is not right given the terrorist threat in the Horn of Africa.

The US State Department has warned that extremism could escalate in the region if the withdrawal goes through, especially now that Al Shabaab has increased the number of suicide bombings such as the October 14 attack in Mogadishu that killed over 300.

The UN Security Council has endorsed the withdrawal of another 1,000 troops from Somalia by May next year largely with finance, rather than security, as a key consideration after the EU cut its funding to Amisom.

Amisom has been asking for an additional 8,000 troops to bring the total number to 29,000 to cover areas that are not under its control but the troop contributing countries (Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda) have not been receptive.

UN Resolution 2372

Wohlers Marion, who is Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, told The EastAfrican that the US does not expect any troop withdrawals in December as Washington is ready to keep providing training, equipment, logistics, and advisory support in order to build a Somali force capable of operating alongside, and eventually replacing, the African Union Mission.

“We do not support further drawdown of forces beyond that level at this time, due to ongoing security concerns. The United States supports a conditions-based Amisom drawdown that is tied to the development of capable, professional Somali security forces,” said Mr Marion.

The planned withdrawal is tied to the reduction of the Amisom force mandated by the UN Security Council 2372 Resolution made in August, which is to be carried out by the end of 2017.

According to the UN timetable, Amisom will withdraw 1,000 troops by December and another 1,000 in May next year. The final withdrawal of the 21,000-strong Amisom is set for 2020.

While Amisom continues to receive financial, logistical and equipment support from multilateral donors, the reduction of the EU annual stipend to Amisom from $200 million to $160 million has affected operations.

The EU asked the AU to find alternative sources of funding, and the continental Peace and Security Council has been trying to reach out to counties in the Gulf to fill the gap.

The EU provided $1.68 billion to Amisom between 2004 and 2017. This includes the $189.5 million earmarked for the period April–December 2017.

Amisom benefits from a UN logistical support package, donations, and voluntary contributions to the UN managed Trust Fund. The EU provides the resources needed for paying troop allowances and related expenses within the framework of the African Peace Facility.

Joint operations

Mwenda Njoka, spokesperson for the Kenyan Interior Ministry, said that Kenya’s objectives in going into Somalia in 2011 have been largely met, as Kenya sought to secure its borders and dilute Al Shabaab’s capacity to attack the country.

“We have seen attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa decline significantly except in parts of northern Kenya where there are limited opportunistic attacks using improvised explosive devices. We continue to increase border security along the 700km boundary and we are in the process of flushing out Al Shabaab from Boni forest,” said Mr Njoka.
Amisom spokesperson Col Wilson Rono insisted that the withdrawal will proceed as scheduled. “The numbers will come from all the six sectors. The recent attacks will not disturb the programme unless we are instructed to the contrary by the UN Security Council and the AU,” said Col Rono.

Ugandan troops

But Uganda has offered to send 5,000 troops to Somalia outside Amisom provided the international community commits resources for the operations. President Yoweri Museveni in September gave the offer to Donald Yamamoto, US acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

The first withdrawal which will be on a pro rata basis, will see each of the five countries reduce their troops by four per cent. Uganda, with the highest number of troops in Amisom (6,223) will send home about 250 troops, followed by Burundi with 5,432 troops which will release 217 soldiers.

Ethiopia with 4,395 troops will pull back 176, Kenya’s 3,664 will be whittled down by 146 and Djibouti’s 1,000 troops will make do without 40.

Nonetheless, police contributing countries like Burundi, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe will contribute 500 officers to beef up the Somalian police service across the country.

Amisom civilian head Francisco Madeira, who is also the special representative of the AU Commission chairperson said the reduction in peacekeepers would run concurrently with the Somali National Army (SNA) assuming the country’s security responsibilities.

Amisom launched a massive operation on November 6 to flush out Al Shabaab militants from Lower Shabelle and secure main supply routes in the area.

Amisom is supposed to train and equip at least 30,000 SNA troops to take over once they leave.

Somaliland

Protests in Somaliland As Opposition Claim Election Fraud

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Wadani Party supporters took to the streets of various opposition strongholds to protest what they claim to be election irregularities.

In Burco police used live bullets to disperse protestors.

Riots erupted hours after senior Wadani officials held a press conference on Thursday morning, accusing the ruling party of purchasing and using ballot papers forged with NEC’s official stamp.

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Somali News

Pentagon says more than 500 US troops now in Somalia, but denies ‘build up’

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The Pentagon announced in a statement Thursday there are now “more than” 500 US troops on the ground in Somalia.

A significant increase from early 2014 when roughly two dozen troops arrived for the first time since 1993 and the Black Hawk Down incident.

US Africa Command says there have been 28 airstrikes this year, mostly from drones against al-Shabaab, long considered the greatest terror threat in Africa.

At a press conference Thursday at the Pentagon, a top defense official denied any “ramp-up.”

“I do not believe necessarily there’s a ramp-up,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff when asked about the spike in airstrikes in Somalia. “It’s the density of targets is such that now there’s some of opportunities to do those strikes.”

The US military recently conducted six straight days of airstrikes in Somalia from last Thursday to Tuesday.

Last month, al-Shabaab was blamed for a truck bombing in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu which killed over 300 people.

The head of the Pentagon’s joint staff said there’s no link between the fall of the ISIS capital Raqqa last month, and the first airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen and Somalia.

US DRONE STRIKE IN SOMALIA KILLS ‘SEVERAL AL-SHABAAB MILITANTS, MILITARY SAYS

Earlier this month, the US conducted the first airstrikes against ISIS in Somalia.

McKenzie also denied the increase of hundreds of additional troops in Somalia as a “build up,” but just a “flow of forces in and out” of the country.

In May, a Navy SEAL was killed fighting al-Shabaab, the first combat death in Somalia since 1993.

In addition to Somalia, the US military has conducted over 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen, including the first strikes against ISIS in Yemen last month.

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Briefing Room

UNSC votes to extend sanctions on Eritrea and Somalia

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The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend an arms embargo imposed on Eritrea and Somalia for allegedly supporting al-Shabaab. The decision comes barely a week after a panel of experts called for the lifting of sanctions particularly on Somalia. CGTN’s Liling Tan filed this report from New York

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BARTAMAHA TV

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