What's In Blue

Posted Fri 3 Feb 2012

Somalia Briefing following Secretary-General’s Recommendations

On Monday (6 February), Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra is scheduled to brief Council members in informal consultations on the Secretary-General’s special report on Somalia of 31 January (S/2012/74). While the Secretary-General’s report presents recommendations on the new strategic concept for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), it seems some Council members were expecting more details on key aspects of the new concept, particularly on the financial implications of an expanded UN support package for AMISOM. It is now expected that Malcorra will present more concrete cost estimates during Monday’s briefing. Council members also appear interested in receiving a better understanding of how the proposed reinforcements of AMISOM will fit into the overall political strategy for Somalia and help achieve key political objectives.

Following Monday’s discussions, the UK is expected to circulate a draft resolution on AMISOM that will respond to the AU’s 5 January request for Council action to support the implementation of the strategic concept. It seems the UK would like to adopt this resolution ahead of the London conference on Somalia scheduled for 23 February.

In his report, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council authorise an increase in AMISOM’s mandated troop strength from 12,000 to 17,731 personnel, as requested by the AU. The report also recommends that the Council authorise “an appropriately expanded” logistical support package, “to enable AMISOM to deliver its mandate in line with the new strategic concept.” (Under this proposal, reimbursement of contingent-owned equipment would be added to the current support package covered by UN-assessed contributions.)

Additionally, the report provides some clarifications with regard to command and control issues related to the expansion of AMISOM (which have been of concern to some Council members.) It notes that AMISOM troop contributing countries met on 17 January and agreed to establish a coordination mechanism to provide strategic guidance to the mission. It also agreed that AMISOM would have two deputy force commanders. Moreover, the report provides further details on the planned new areas of deployment outside of Mogadishu and the number of troops per sector.

In his recommendations, the Secretary-General emphasises that it is of critical importance to expand AMISOM in order to take advantage of the present “window of opportunity”. He stressed that the expansion would help the Somali Transitional Federal Government extend its authority across Somalia and defeat the Islamist rebel group Al-Shabaab. While some Council members have questioned the need for such a large increase in troop numbers, the Secretary-General makes it clear in his report that a less ambitious approach involving a smaller increase in the troop ceiling might be cheaper in the short term, but may not significantly improve the situation, particularly in south-central Somalia, in the long-term.

Most Council members seem supportive of efforts to strengthen AMISOM, but do not want to commit to specific proposals until they have been given detailed cost estimates for an expanded support package based on higher troop levels. European members on the Council seem particularly cautious about increasing the UN’s financial burden and such concerns are likely to play an important role in ongoing discussions. There are also concerns that the objectives of the new military strategy have not been clearly linked to the political strategy. At this stage it is unclear to what extent the Council will authorise the AU’s requests, but the expectation seems to be that it will be less than what has been sought.

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