Inside Somalia's strategy to conquer Al-Shabaab ahead of AU forces exit

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia has put a number of strategies that would help secure the country in the long term, it emerged, just months before African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] soldiers start systematic withdrawal with local troops now expected to take over security responsibilities.

For the last seven months, despite a number of setbacks on some frontlines, Somali troops with the help of international partners have made huge strides in crushing Al-Shabaab militants. Statistics given by the government indicate that over 3,000 militants were killed during the first phase.

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, the National Security Advisor, has outlined a number of strategies that the country targets to have implemented before the official exit of AU mission troops. The strategies, he argues, will help stabilize Somalia for a smooth state-building process.

The country, he noted, will heavily invest in defeating Al-Shabaab militants with the second phase earmarked for "complete destruction of their networks". Somalia is preparing for the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab with Jubaland and Southwest states being the major targets.

For smooth operations, the government has asked for support from Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia who will dispatch non-ATMIS troops to the country for the operation. The soldiers, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said, will serve in the country for a period of 90 days under the command of the Somali National Army [SNA].

Also, strengthening and increasing the size of the infantry soldiers will be a key priority, with Somalia now relying on Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea for the training of new soldiers. The newly trained soldiers will assume the roles of the ATMIS soldiers who are set for an exit from the country, he adds.

According to Sheikh-Ali, speaking at the Dood Furan Program [Open Discussion Program], 10,000 soldiers have already been trained this year. The government will likely continue to invest in training and equipping its soldiers with a mission-capable force that can effectively secure the country.

The government is also seeking to have the arms embargo lifted. This has been in place for many years and has limited their ability to acquire weapons and military equipment. Lifting it would allow them to better equip their army and more effectively fight against Al-Shabaab.

Finally, they are focusing on promoting good governance and transparency. This will be crucial in building trust with the Somali people and ensuring that the country continues to move forward on a positive path, the spokesperson said as outlined by the state media.

Starting next month, ATMIS will start the strategic withdrawal of troops from Somalia, a project which will end in the next 18 months. It is not certain that the country will be completely secure from the group by that time but there is hope a number of gains would be in offing within the next few years.

GAROWE ONLINE

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