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February 21, 2012

UN Increases Troops for AU Somalia Force

by Margaret Besheer

The United Nations Security Council has authorized an increase in troop strength for the African Union force in Somalia, known as AMISOM. The move is aimed at capitalizing on gains made in fighting al-Shabab militants and to increase military pressure on the fighters.  The move comes a day ahead of an international summit on Somalia in the British capital.

The 15-nation Security Council raised the troop ceiling from 12,000 to nearly 18,000. Funding and logistical support to the force was also increased, doubling U.N. member state contributions for the mission from $250 million to about $550 million.

Wednesday’s adoption of Resolution 2036 comes a day ahead of a major international summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron in London intended to seek a lasting political solution in Somalia, which has been plagued by instability and violence for over 20 years.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after the vote that the resolution sends a strong political message of support for developing Somalia’s national forces and makes clear that the period of political transition will end in August.

He also underscored that the African Union force will have a stronger hand in dealing with al-Shabab militants because of the resolution.

“It also strengthens the mandate of AMISOM and for the first time, it authorizes AMISOM to use 'all necessary means' to reduce the threat from al-Shabab and therefore to conduct more robust and offensive operations,” said Grant.

The resolution also bans the export of charcoal from Somalia - a major source of revenue for al-Shabab. But it does not authorize an additional maritime component, which U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said was regrettable, as the United States believes it would be valuable in achieving the mission’s overall goals.

Somali government forces and AMISOM have pushed al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and have made gains in other parts of the country.

AMISOM is made up primarily of troops from Uganda and Burundi.  Several thousand Kenyan troops recently deployed to Somalia, and they will now become part of the expanded troop strength of AMISOM.  

There are also several thousand Ethiopian troops in Somalia fighting al-Shabab forces.  Those troops helped the government seize the town of Baidoa Wednesday.