• Mission involved in `critical operations' against al-Shabaab
  • Lack of air support seen limiting fight with Islamist group

The African mission battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia needs more support during a critical stage, making it the wrong time to cut international funding, a spokesman said.

A European Union plan to trim financial support by a fifth this year that could cut troops’ wages “has been discussed but has not yet been implemented,” Gaffel Nkolokosa, a spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as Amisom, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“The troops are at this stage engaged in critical operations and need even more support,” Nkolokosa said. “This is not the time to cut the resources at their disposal.”

Al-Shabaab, which began its insurgency in Somalia in 2006, has carried out attacks in countries including Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, killing hundreds of people. Amisom, which comprises eight nations’ forces, deployed in the Horn of Africa country in 2007 to support the Somali army, dislodging the militants from the capital, Mogadishu, about four years later.

Amisom wants the United Nations to “fully support Amisom at all levels commensurate with similar peace enforcement missions,” Nkolokosa said. The mission against al-Shabaab is being curtailed by a “lack of force multipliers such as air assets and enablers,” Nkolokosa said. 

U.S. Activities

The U.S., which has targeted individual al-Shabaab leaders in the past, has recently broadened its activities, carrying out an air strike north of Mogadishu on March 5 that it said killed 150 militants. It also backed a Somali army raid on camps later that week.

Amisom seized “significant territories” from al-Shabaab in 2015, but its recent operations “have been limited due to overstretched forces and endemic deficiencies within the Somali national army,” David Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

Amisom also wants more support directed toward training and providing military equipment to Somalia’s army and police, Nkolokosa said.

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