The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) announced on Tuesday that some 1,000 soldiers will be withdrawn from Somalia by Dec. 31 in line with the African Union and UN Security Council resolutions.
The Special Representative of the African Union Chairperson for Somalia, Francisco Madeira, stressed that the withdrawal of AMISOM troops from Somalia will be "gradual" and "conditions-based."
"AMISOM has begun its drawdown from Somalia and will have its troop numbers reduced by 1,000 by Dec. 31. Our drawdown and transition must be gradual, conditions-based, responsible and done in a manner that does not compromise the safety and security of the Somali people," Madeira told journalists in Mogadishu.
As result of this, he said, troop movements have started in different parts of the Horn of Africa nation and will continue for the coming as security responsibilities start to shift to the local military.
"This is a process of re-alignment to effect the reduction in numbers and begin the handover of security responsibilities to Somali forces. I want to assure all that this exercise's being conducted with caution to ensure the security of the Somali people is not compromised," he said.
Madeira said as part of the military drawdown, the pan African body will deploy an extra 500 police officers who will strengthen training and mentoring for Somali Police
"The deployment of additional police officers will help extend law and order in Somalia hence further securing the country," the AU envoy said.
AMISOM will reduce its troops by 1,000 by December, followed by further cuts next year, an exercise expected to end by 2020 as part of its exit strategy.
However, AMISOM's exit is also pegged on the ability of the Somali National Security Forces, particularly the SNA to ably take over the security of the country.
The AU envoy's remarks came a day after AMISOM launched a massive security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in Middle Shabelle region in southern region.
The major offensive comes barely a month after the country's Oct. 14 deadly attack killed 358 people and left several others injured.
Madeira said the ongoing troop movements should not cause alarm, but the withdrawal has begun earlier than expected.
"The re-alignment of AMISOM troops is a process that must be implemented as part African Union and UN Security Council resolutions. We are proud and envisioned a time when we could hand over responsibility to the Somali National Security Forces," Madeira said.
He said the Somali forces urgently need to be equipped with necessary weapons and key logistical support including timely payment of stipend to enable them to flush out the militants out of the country.
"Other urgent support includes provision of quality medical care and establishment of key infrastructure - barracks and training centers," he said.
Some Western countries including the United States have expressed concern that Somalia's security forces will not be ready by then.
AMISOM is comprised of troops drawn from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Burundi who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia.
Ugandan troops are deployed in Sector 1 which comprises the regions of Banadir and Lower Shabelle.