The African Union has resolved to form a team of experts including troop contributing countries to map out ways in which forces will exit Somalia by May 2018, officials said on Wednesday.
Military Operations Coordination Committee (MOCC) for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has called for the reduction of AMISOM military personnel and the gradual hand over of security responsibilities to the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF).
In its meeting held on Tuesday in Ethiopia and attended by Chiefs of Defense Staff (CDS) and designated representatives of AMISOM police/troop contributing countries (Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda) and Somalia as well as donor community, it was agreed that experts should work out options including details of the exit plan.
"The MOCC agreed to establish a team of experts including the troop contributing countries to work out options including the details of the exit plan for AMISOM to exit Somalia by May 31, 2018," AMISOM said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.
The exit strategy formulated by the AU's Peace and Security Council calls for the staggered withdrawal of 22,000 AMISOM troops.
The troops were deployed to Somalia in 2007 to defend the government against the Al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgent group Al-Shabaab.
AMISOM said the MOCC agreed on the way forward in terms of the initial reduction of military personnel by December 2017 as well as AMISOM's new tasks.
The meeting reiterated the need for assured funding within the period recommended by the Joint Review for transition from AMISOM to Somali National Security Forces, availing the stated force enablers and multipliers and additional support.