Reality dawns as KDF gears up for smooth exit from Somalia

Nairobi, 18 October 2020 (The Star): The Somalia National Defence Forces will soon have to take over security of their country.

The reality of KDF exiting Somalia by 2021 has started taking shape. The Star has established that the troops under Amisom have started gearing up for an exit.

This will likely bring to an end a decade of KDF’s presence in Somalia under Amisom’s Concept of Operations (Conops).

Since Amisom took over military operations, its mandate has primarily been geared towards empowering the Somali Security Forces (SSF) through mentorship.

Multiple sources at the Department of Defence told the Star that currently, Somali forces are increasingly conducting independent operations, following mentorship by respective troops under Amisom.

According to the sources, Amisom has been conducting Operational Readiness Assessments (ORA) annually across Somalia.

The purpose of the assessment has been to establish the manning levels, standards of training and capability in each region.

“From the assessment reports, it is apparent that the SSF have attained a reasonable degree of capacity but still require more support and time to achieve optimal readiness,” the source said.

VISIT BY KIBOCHI

This comes after the new Chief of Defence Forces Gen Robert Kibochi visited the troops in Somalia.

Kibochi said the troops will continue to be sharpened by ensuring they are sufficiently equipped to deal with the enemies they are facing.

”You are the arrowhead and we must sharpen the arrowhead. We shall do so by providing you with the right tools to perform your duties,” he told the soldiers.

The source said much has been done towards achieving Amisom’s mandate towards the Somali Transition Plan (STP), but there is still more work to be done.

The Transition Plan has continued to guide the conduct of operations towards a stable and safe Somalia.

“Ultimately, it is the desire of all parties to see to fruition the handover of security responsibilities to the Federal Government of Somalia,” the source said.

According to the senior military personnel, Amisom troops drawdown has necessitated increased involvement of SSF in operations and management of security in a number of areas.

However, the troops continue to maintain a presence in key areas as part of the transition plan, and the exit will not be one-off but progressive.

The AU Special Representative for Somalia and Head of Amisom, Amb Francisco Madeira recently held a meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council alongside Force Commander Lt Gen Diomede Ndegeya, where they briefed the officials on the preparations.

GRADUAL TRANSITION

Ndegeya is said to have directed Sector Commanders to start gradually handing over the responsibility of key installations to SSF.

The council was told that though there has been good cooperation between the President of Somalia and the presidents of the five federal states, there is still great need to strengthen joint operations with Somali Security along the Main Supply Route and secure population centres in line with the Conops and the STP.

The Somalia Transition Plan is a comprehensive guide developed by the Federal Government of Somalia and its partners for the transfer of security responsibilities to the SSF ahead of Amisom’s anticipated exit from the country.

Enhancing security on the main supply routes, Gen Ndegeya said, will enable the SSF to take up, on their own, the security responsibilities of key installations in the area ahead of envisaged exit.

“Like we did in Mogadishu, the Sector Commanders should work with the Somali Security Forces with a view to gradually handing the responsibility of installations to SSF,” he said.

In 2018, Amisom developed the Conops to guide troop mandate implementation from 2018-21.

“The instrument emphasises the role of our troops in maintaining security in the sector. The document prioritises the protection of civilians in the main population centres, while also creating conditions for socioeconomic development,” one of the sources said.

According to the source, Amisom troops have also been instrumental in mentoring the SSF to prepare them to take over security responsibilities in the post-Amisom period.

He said keeping the main supply routes open is yet another contribution made by the Kenyan troops.

“More importantly, the guidelines spell out modalities in the conduct of joint operations to degrade the threat posed by al Shabaab and its affiliates,” the source said.

The Conops contain clear breakdown on how the Amisom troops should operate towards a gradual handover to the Somali forces.

Though the guidelines seen by the Star do not indicate an actual date when the troops exit in 2021, the sources said KDF troops have been on a rigorous exercise, mentoring Somali forces through joint operations that will see them take over.

“Our troops have been conducting joint offensive operations to degrade al Shabaab. In the operations, the aim has been to ensure Somalia forces are on the front line as we support them to remain tactical and professional,” another source said.

This, he said, is key to helping the Somali forces understand the scope of operations and the type of enemy they are dealing with.

According to Conops, the exit will be conducted gradually to allow a smooth transition.

Though the guidelines seen by the Star do not indicate an actual date when the troops exit in 2021, the sources said KDF troops have been on a rigorous exercise, mentoring Somali forces through joint operations that will see them take over.

EXIT PLAN

Top military commanders under Amisom met last year and agreed on key operations and activities to be executed under the Mission’s new Conops, approved in 2018 by the Military Operations Coordination Committee (MOCC).

The MOCC comprises of Chiefs of Defence Staff and designated representatives of Troop and Police Contributing Countries, the Federal Government of Somalia, the UN, development partners, and the AU Peace and Security Council.

The Somalia Transition Plan is being implemented in three phases.

Activities undertaken under the plan include the phased and conditions-based troops’ withdrawal and handing over of priority locations to the SSF, in the short term.

Degrading of al Shabaab and securing main supply routes and support to the SSF as they take full charge of the country’s national security responsibilities will be priorities under the mid-term and long-term objectives.

Sources told the Star the move would likely see the troops launch a Kismayo-like capture against Jilib, which is the only remaining town under al Shabaab.

“Many towns and population centres are today not only accessible but interconnected. Today goods can move from the ports to the hinterland as KDF/Amisom open up and rehabilitates roads. Today we have a fully functional airport and maritime port in Kismayo,” the source said.

“The Transition Plan fully recognises the importance of a conditional based drawdown and handover. The question of whether or not the mandate will be extended is dependent on the prevailing security situation and capacity of the SSF and critical institutions,” he said.

The source added, “More importantly, Somalia, the United Nations Peace and Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council will make appropriate determinations when the time comes.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta has always indicated that KDF will be committed in Somalia until a lasting solution is found.

But the source said Kenyan troops in Somalia currently operate under Amisom as mandated by the UN to which Kenya is a member state.

“Beyond the Somali stabilisation effort and the transition plan, KDF will continue to provide defence to Kenya as constitutionally mandated,” the source said.

“KDF has conducted many Peace Support Operations around the world over the years. From this wide experience, KDF/Amisom envisions a smooth transition process. This process is well guided by the Somali Transition Plan.

The exit, sources said, will see now the elite men and women focus on their constitutional mandate. This is protection against internal and external threats to Kenya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, its people and their rights, freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity and other national interests.

The troops are happy that their experience in Somalia, which started with the successful Operation Linda Nchi, saw them rehatted to Amisom.

It has been a decade of tough mission in which the troops won majorly against the terror groups and also suffered casualties, memories that will live with them forever.

SOURCE: www.the-star.co.ke

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