Ruto: Al-Shabaab will take over Somalia after ATMIS withdrawal

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NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya's President William Ruto has expressed fears of a possible Al-Shabaab takeover in Somalia upon the exit of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops, noting that there is a 'proper' review before the mission team leaves the country.

ATMIS contingent has been integral in the stabilization mission in Somalia for the last 17 years, with the group assisting in training and equipping the Somali National Army (SNA) which will be responsible for security responsibilities once the mission team completes withdrawal.

Under the Somali Transition Plan (STP), over 5,000 soldiers have left the country in two phases, with the third set for June 2014. It is anticipated that 5,000 more soldiers will be leaving the country next month, as ATMIS mulls full exit by December 2024.

During his state visit to the US last week, Ruto said he fears that Alshabaab could take over once the troops leave. He now wants the US to chip in and block the exit, adding that the move will save Somalia from plunging into another crisis.

President Ruto said he raised his concern with President Hassan Sheikh on the ATMIS troop drawdown. Ruto also urged the U.S. to pause the departure of ATMIS troops. The US Africa Command partners closely with ATMIS in the stabilization mission.

"Before I came here, I had a discussion with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. We have serious security challenges before of impending drawdown of ATMIS troops in Somalia which is calendar-based and not condition-based," he said.

"Our position is that the United States should step in and change trajectory. Otherwise, the moment ATMIS exits, Al-Shabaab will take over," added Ruto, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).

KDF has close to 3,500 soldiers in Somalia, serving alongside those from Ethiopia, Djibouti, Burundi, and Uganda. The troops have played a key role in the liberation of strategic towns such as Kismayo, which was initially under the control of the group.

GAROWE ONLINE

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