Ethiopia sends non-ATMIS troops to Somalia in fight against Al-Shabaab
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A few days after Somalia revealed a planned deployment of more soldiers from the neighboring countries, Ethiopia has become the first nation to send additional troops to the Horn of Africa nation, who are now required to join their compatriots serving in the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS].
Reports indicate that a contingent of Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] soldiers entered Somalia on Monday, in which would raise the number from the current 4,500. The agreement signed indicated that each of the countries was to are 1,000 soldiers.
The new contingent of Ethiopian soldiers will be joining their compatriots in Sectors III and VI where they have been serving for over a decade. Most of the Ethiopian soldiers are stationed in Southwest and Jubaland where they work closely with Somalia National Army [SNA] and their colleagues from Kenya Defense Forces [KDF].
Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya agreed to dispatch soldiers to Somalia following a meeting in Mogadishu which brought together presidents of the three nations and Somalia's Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The new contingent is not going to serve as part of ATMIS but it is not clear if there is an arrangement to have them paid by African Union.
Hussein Sheikh Ali, the presidential security advisor confirmed the agreement but insisted the soldiers will not be part of ATMIS. There are about 22,000 soldiers serving in ATMIS who are selected from Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Burundi, and Uganda.
"It is their plan to be coming inside Somalia within eight weeks," he said. "Their role is to jointly plan and jointly operate under the command of the Somali security forces," he said. "So, they will be fighting against al-Shabab alongside Somali forces. That is the plan."
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had called for assistance from ATMIS troops noting that his administration is determined to completely crush the militants. For the last six months, about 600 Al-Shabaab militants have been killed, the highest number in as many months.
"The time-sensitive campaign will prevent any future infiltrating elements into the wider region," the communique read.
Asked why the military operations against al-Shabab have paused recently, Ali told VOA the government is concluding the first phase of the operations.
"It is a calm before the storm," he said. "We are preparing the second phase … and with the support of the extra non-ATMIS forces from our neighboring countries joining the fight, it is a planning time, that's why it looks like it is quiet."
He said the objective of the second phase is to be able to take over "every village and town" that al-Shabab is now controlling. The government has also heavily invested in blocking revenue collection outlets for Al-Shabaab as part of a commitment to completely isolate the group.