Somalia sends thousands of army recruits to foreign countries for training


MOGADISHU, Somalia - As the latest strategy to defeat Al-Shabaab militants, the government of Somalia has sent more recruits for further training abroad, with the country hoping to eliminate violent extremist groups in the next 12 months by restoring order in most strategic parts of the country.

Hussein Sheikh Ali, the National Security Adviser, told Voice of America [VOA] that Mogadishu has dispatched 3,000 soldiers each to Uganda and Eritrea to improve their capacity and capability of handling the Al-Shabaab and IS-Somalia insurgents who are determined to ground the current administration under Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

"We want to complete making 15,000 soldiers ready within 2023," Ali told VOA in the one-on-one interview in Washington where he met with U.S. officials to seek more support for Somalia, noting that more soldiers will be sent to Ethiopia and Egypt for similar training.

On Tuesday, a new report by the Heritage Institute of Policy Studies [HIPS] expressed concerns about Somalia's preparedness in the fight against violent extremists, noting that December 2024 may not even be the convenient time for Somalia to let the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] soldiers leave.

"This timetable is ambitious because the Somali security services are unlikely to be fully autonomous by then, nor is it likely that al-Shabab will have been militarily defeated," the report said.

"The deadline and the fact the army is in a war while at the same time, they are being rebuilt … we argue it's a tight deadline," said Afyare Elmi, executive director of HIPS and the report's co-author. "It will be difficult to meet."

Ali said the delay was requested because the troops Somalia is expecting to take over from ATMIS are in training abroad. He also said the government doesn't want to disrupt military operations against al-Shabab in central Somalia, as the areas ATMIS troops would vacate will have to be taken over by Somali forces.

The new deployment of soldiers to Eritrea and Uganda comes at a time Somalia is receiving over 5,000 soldiers who have been undergoing training in Eritrea for the last three years. The soldiers are being repatriated to the country and some have even joined their colleagues on the battlefield to tackle Al-Shabaab.

"There is no reason for ATMIS to stay or to continue to stay in Somalia," he added.

Ali also made a bold prediction that the government will defeat the militant group by next summer. "Our ... primary goal is that in the summer of 2024, before June or July, there will be no al-Shabab person occupying territory in Somalia. You can note that down," he said.

Al-Shabaab has, however, lost strategic towns across Somalia in the last six months, an indication that the national army with its partners is moving towards the right course. The country is financially drained but President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has called on members of the international community to help.


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