More troops urged to prop up Somalia

Posted: March 12, 2017 at 4:08 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2017 at 4:08 a.m.

FILE - In this Sunday, July 26, 2015 file photo, an African Union (AU) soldier walks past the scene of destruction following a suicide car bomb attack outside a well-known hotel in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia. The head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Francisco Caetano Madeira is seeking a surge in troops to help the country's security forces control areas won back from the extremist group al-Shabab. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The head of the African Union mission in Somalia is seeking a surge in troops to help the country's military control areas won back from extremist group al-Shabab, saying Somalia's army has been unable to take charge as expected.

Francisco Caetano Madeira's request for an unspecified number of extra African Union troops comes as concern arises that Somalia's military won't be ready to take over the country's security as the 22,000-strong African Union force prepares to withdraw by the end of 2020.

"It's time we made it known that [the African Union force] is not going to stay forever," Madeira told a high-level meeting Thursday.

Al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere. Its deadly attacks on military bases in the past two years have slowed joint African Union-Somali offensives against the group.

Madeira's comments came the same day the head of U.S. Africa Command made a similar warning to the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.

The African Union force will begin withdrawing in 2018, "and if this departure begins prior to Somalia having capable security forces, large portions of Somalia are at risk of returning to al-Shabab control or potentially allowing ISIS to gain a stronger foothold in the country," Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, referring to the Islamic State.

After a decade in Somalia, the regional countries contributing troops to the mission are "fatigued," Waldhauser said.

Fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group are the latest terror threat in the Horn of Africa nation after breaking away from al-Shabab in 2015.

A Section on 03/12/2017