NEW YORK: A UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which faces attacks by an al-Qaeda affiliate, received unanimous Security Council backing on Tuesday to have its mandate extended until July 31.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with about 21,600 troops, operates with the approval of the UN and relies on international funding.
By extending AMISOM’s mandate to the end of July, the United Nations Security Council allowed for a review of recommendations expected in a “joint assessment” report on Somalia to be presented by June 15.
In its resolution, the Security Council recalled that it authorised the African Union to reduce AMISOM to roughly 20,600 personnel by October 30, after 1,000 troops were pulled out last year.
There are plans for a full withdrawal of foreign troops by December 2020, but heads of state and ministers from the main troop contributors including, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, in March warned the timeframe for the drawdown was “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by AMISOM.”
The mission was deployed in 2007 to defend the internationally-backed government against attacks by al-Shabaab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Al-Shabaab was blamed for the country’s worst ever attack in which a truck bombing left more than 500 dead in October last year.
Experts describe the bloated and largely ineffective Somali army as a collection of clan militias, with various international militaries providing poorly-coordinated training to different units.
Al-Shabaab lost its foothold in Mogadishu in 2011 but has continued its fight.