African Union (AU) soldiers stand with their armored vehicles near a checkpoint on the eve of presidential elections in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 7, 2017.
African Union (AU) soldiers stand with their armored vehicles near a checkpoint on the eve of presidential elections in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 7, 2017.

WASHINGTON/NAIROBI - The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) says it needs urgent and reliable funding in order to defeat al-Shabab militants and transfer security responsibilities to the Somali National Army.

AMISOM chief Francisco Madeira issued the appeal while talking to reporters in Nairobi Thursday.
 
“We need urgent support. Our troops are ready, but they need to be resourced. This has not been happening to expectations, despite the repeated commitments by partners in different forums,” said Madeira.
 
Madeira warned that lack of funding could endanger the hard-won gains in the fight against militants over the last decade.
 
“A stable Somalia is critical for the stability across the East African region and beyond, and if we do not decisively address the threat of al-Shabab, [the group] will continue to pose a danger,” he said.
 
AMISOM has said it will begin drawing down the number of troops in Somalia ahead of a total pullout in 2020.  The first batch of 28 Ugandan soldiers left the country earlier this month.
 

The U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution co
FILE - The U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution concerning Somalia, March 23, 2017. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed addressed the council via a video link from Nairobi.

A recent United Nations Security Council resolution slightly reduced the maximum number of troops to 21,626.
 
Pre-conditions
 
The AU plan for withdrawal set pre-conditions, including the training and equipping at least 30,000 Somali National Army (SNA) personnel with the support of the U.N. and other donor countries.
 
Madeira says it is the time to help the SNA prepare to take the lead in the stabilization process.
 
“It is urgent that Somalia security forces are capacitated to take over the security responsibilities of their country. The integration of Somali National Army needs to happen in urgency,” said Madeira.
 
Mission optimism
 
As the clock ticks towards a new year, AMISOM and the Somali Army, with the help of U.S. military, are preparing for a major offensive to drive al-Shabab militants out of their strongholds in the Juba Valley, the Gedo region and the Middle Juba region.
 
“We look forward for 2018 with great optimism,” said Madeira.  
 
Madeira said AMISOM’s 2018 plans include handing over major frontline bases across Somalia to the SNA.
 
But he questioned the viability of these plans without adequate funding and support.
 
“We will work with the Somali National Forces and other stake holders to open unsecure main supply routes, protect strategic infrastructure such as key bridges in order to link population centers and support humanitarian activities. These operations are all subject to availability of adequate support,” said Madeira.
 
On Tuesday, Somali Defense Minister Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdirahman said an assessment conducted by the government found that approximately 30 percent of the SNA soldiers do not have weapons.
 
The evaluators said some units also lack medium and heavy weaponry, and some are "undermanned."

Khadar Hared contributed to the story from Nairobi.