By Prudence Arobani
The UN Security Council has extended its authorization of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until May 31, 2018.
The 15-member body also approved a reduction of its uniformed personnel to a maximum 21,626 by Dec. 31, 2017, with an eye towards the gradual handover over of responsibilities to Somali security forces.
Unanimously adopting a new resolution, the Council decided that the downsizing – the first ever for the African-led operation – would include a minimum of 1,040 AMISOM police personnel and five Formed Police Units.
A further reduction, from the current maximum of 22,126, to 20,626 uniformed personnel by Oct. 30, 2018 would follow, unless the Council decides to accelerate that pace, taking into account the capabilities of Somali security forces.
The Security Council emphasized that the long-term objective for Somalia, with international support, was for the Somali Security Forces to assume full responsibility for security, with AMISOM remaining critical during the transition,
The Council welcomed the recommendation by the AU-UN review for a “gradual and phased” reduction and reorganization of the Mission.
Further by the text, AMISOM’s strategic objectives would be to enable the gradual handover of its security responsibility to Somali security forces to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups.
The measure is also to assist Somali security forces in providing security for Somalia’s political process and peace building efforts.
The Council decided that AMISOM’s priority tasks would be, among other efforts, to conduct targeted offensive operations against Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups.
AMISOM would also mentor the Somali security forces in cooperation with the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and in line with national security structures.
The African-led operation would reconfigure, as security conditions allowed, in favour of police personnel, and receive defectors on a transitory basis.