By T. Roble
Ugandan military chief has warned Amisom forces may not be able to sustain offensives against the militant group Al-Shabaab owing to limited capacity as the AU forces gradually withdraw from Somalia.
General David Muhoozi said in a media interview Sunday his troops (UPDF) have been forced to shut down forward operating bases in Somalia to ‘consolidate defensive strength’ warning the forces were ‘getting stuck’ as they could not launch further offensives against Al-Shabaab.
“It has now implied that we cannot defend what we already have and neither can we effectively offend the enemy to degrade [its] capacity,” Gen. Muhoozi told the Daily Monitor in Uganda.
That is the dilemma we are in and that is why the TCCs (Troop Contributing Countries) met to put across the concerns of the mission, so that with the international partners, we can find a way forward, Gen. Muhoozi added referring to the TCCs conference in Kampala February.
Gen. Muhoozi’s remarks add to similar concerns severally raised by TCCs and Amisom leaders especially with the regards to force multipliers and enablers. The draw-down of Amisom forces has also been a matter of concern for both Amisom and TCCs who instead had called for additional troops to cut down Al-Shabaab influence ahead of the phased exit.
The UN Security Council last August approved the first ever troops reduction in the AU Mission in Somalia cutting by 1,000 last December. A further 1,000 troops are expected to leave Somalia this coming October as part of preparations for Somali Security Forces take-over. But analysts have warned Somali Security Forces still have a long way to go in building sufficient capacity to take full charge.
Speaking weeks after UPDF suffered a fatal attack by Al-Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region, the army boss also pointed to ‘mismatch between what we want to do and what we have’.
“Our ambition was bigger than the troops we had,” he said, “you find that you have moved forward but your rear is insecure; it is vulnerable because there are no holding forces which ideally should be coming from the Somali.
Ugandan forces first came to Somalia 2007 and still maintain the highest number of troops (6,223 ) based in sector one which comprises of Banaadir (including Mogadishu), Middle and Lower Shabelle regions.