African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military commanders began a four-day meeting in Mogadishu on Monday to develop a comprehensive plan that will guide their exit strategy.
AMISOM deputy head Simon Mulongo said the plan will identify activities and operations to be implemented under the new concept of operations (CONOPS) and also lay out a timeframe and logistical support needed to implement the activities.
“We need to make do with the little resources we have and implement the new CONOPS to help AMISOM fulfil its mandate of securing Somalia,” Mulongo told the official opening of the conference in a statement.
The new CONOPS, which is the framework for AMISOM’s exit strategy, will guide the AU mission’s military activities and operations for the 2018-2021 period.
The meeting brings together sector commanders who lead military contingents from troop-contributing countries to AMISOM, representatives from the Somali National Army, the United Nations and other partners.
Mulongo urged the commanders to come up with realistic operation plans that will ensure the key CONOPS requirements are successfully implemented.
The meeting came as AMISOM is expected to draw down its troops by 1,000 by the Feb. 28, in line with a July 2018 UN Security Council resolution.
According to the resolution, AMISOM will need to reduce the level of uniformed personnel to 20,626 by Feb. 28, 2019, without “any further delay.”
Under the new CONOPS, several forward operating bases (FOBs) are likely to be reconfigured and others folded up, as troop numbers reduce, said the AU mission.
However, AMISOM made an assurance that the changes will be undertaken with the utmost consideration of the safety and security of populations living in the regions where the FOBs are situated.
Tigabu Yilma Wondimhunegn, AMISOM force commander, said they will focus on conducting targeted offensive operations against al-Shabab to degrade its capability, deny them freedom of action and movement and secure friendly forces in order to implement the CONOPS effectively.
The CONOPS marks the final phase of the AU mission’s transition and its eventual exit from Somalia.