War on Al-Shabaab dominates Somali president's meeting with US Defense Secretary
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Ongoing operations against the Al-Shabaab militants dominated Sunday's meeting between Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin III in Djibouti, with the US pledging to continue supporting the offensive against the Al-Qaeda-linked terror group.
Hassan Sheikh was invited by Djiboutian President Omar Ismail Guelleh, who hosted the Pentagon Chief for strategic security talks on the Horn of Africa region. Djibouti is home to the US Africa Command, a force credited for fostering peace and stability in many African nations.
Austin, who is on an official trip to Africa, lauded the people of Somalia for their "resilience" in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants. In the last few months, clan mobilization has been a major booster of the war against Al-Shabaab across the country.
"With thanks to Djiboutian President Ismail Oguelleh, I met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during my visit to Djibouti to discuss our shared efforts to counter al-Shabaab and acknowledged the courage and sacrifice of the Somali people as we work together to tackle the challenges that lay ahead," Austin said.
The US has been a key stakeholder in the fight against Al-Shabaab within Somalia, offering air surveillance to combat troops mainly from the Somali National Army [SNA] and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS]. The US trains and equips the Danab Special Forces.
Also featured in the talks was the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on Somalia for the last three decades, making it difficult for the country to procure and import modern weapons to face the militants in the country. Somalia had put the request on the United Nations Security Council but it is yet to get a node.
"They discussed further enhancing the Somalia-U.S. security partnership, support for the ongoing offensive against international terrorism, and efforts towards lifting the decades-long arms embargo," Villa Somalia noted in a statement.
Earlier, Austin, who is on his first trip to Africa, held talks with Guelleh, ranging from bilateral defence relationship and regional security issues, including Djiboutian support to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia in the fight against violent extremist organizations in the region.
Secretary Austin thanked President Guelleh for his country's leadership and for the longstanding and effective security partnership between the two nations, the State Department of Defence reports. Djibouti is a major security partner of the US in the Horn of Africa.