African Union (AU) backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops  that are helping the Western-backed Government in Somalia battle the Al-Shabaab militants are set to start withdrawing from Somalia in 2018. In an announcement made on Thursday the African Union said it was planning to withdraw its forces so as to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali National Army (SNA). In the meantime, the AMISOM  force is to use the two-year gap to ensure that necessary facilities to ensure a successful handover are put in place.

AMISOM to leave after new government in place.

In a revised copy of the CONOPs (Concept of Operations) which was approved last week during the 608th Peace Security Council of the AU meeting in Addis Ababa, it states that AMISOM will leave Somalia after a new federal government has been put in place and Al-Shabaab chased out of much of Somalia.

The CONOPs is a document which states the role of the AU forces in Somalia. However, the document was revised following complaints from some troop contributing countries over the lack of clarity on some issues.

AMISOM grappling with internal divisions.

The announcement comes as AMISOM grapples with internal divisions with some troop-contributing countries like Kenya and Uganda threatening to withdraw their forces. AMISOM  woes started in February when the EU slashed funding to the force by over 20%. This move was interpreted by most troop-contributing countries as an indication that the stabilization of Somalia was no longer an urgent issue to the EU. In June, just a few weeks after Uganda announced that they would exit Somalia by 2017, the BBC revealed that troops had not been paid for over 6 months.

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However, AMISOM issues go beyond monetary issues as the several troop contributing countries have in recent times incurred heavy casualties to the insurgents. The insurgents started launching Guerilla style attacks on their military bases. The Kenyan government has refused to confirm the number of its soldiers killed in an attack on its military base in El Adde in January which is thought to be over 100. There have also been allegations that some troops in the force have been collaborating with the militants in the illegal charcoal and sugar trade.

Elections slated for September.

Somalia is set to hold elections in September where the current president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud is seeking re-election. The country will rely on the AMISOM forces to maintain peace during the election period as the Al-Shabaab have shown intentions of disrupting the election.

AMISOM in Somalia since 2011.

The AMISOM forces have been in Somalia since 2011 to help the Somali government battle the Al Qaeda-affiliated militants who are seeking to impose their strict version of the Islamic Sharia laws in Somalia.

Although AMISOM has managed to push the militants out of much of Somalia, the militants still control large swathes of territory in southern Somalia. The militants have also launched attacks in neighboring Kenya and Uganda in a bid to pressurize both governments to pull out their forces from Somalia.