MOGADISHU, Somalia – The African Union Mission in Somalia’s capabilities to provide security in the region were recently strengthened when U.S. military members of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) delivered nearly 20 vehicles and two storage containers to the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) here, Sept. 25.
The transfer of assets falls in line with AFRICOM’s aim to assist regional organizations in strengthening their defense capabilities against security threats posed by violent extremist organizations (VEOs).
Brig. Gen. Miguel A. Castellanos, deputy commanding general for CJTF-HOA in Somalia and the Mogadishu Coordination Cell (MCC) director, presented the vehicles to the Ugandan Contingent Commander Brig. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga.
“The UPDF is a steadfast partner to the U.S. and to AMISOM,” said Castellanos. “We are pleased to offer them this additional capability to counter al-Shabaab and other violent extremist groups in Somalia.”
According to Muhanga, this will greatly strengthen the UPDF’s operational capability.
“As a contingent, we have been operating at 40 percent capacity in terms of the necessary equipment,” said Muhanga. “This donation therefore comes in handy and will greatly boost our technical and operational capability.”
The UPDF plays a strategic role deterring al-Shabaab – the primary VEO in Mogadishu – with the support of the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State. For troop-contributing countries, the end goal is to provide security space for a solid Somali government.
Members of AFRICOM, CJTF-HOA’s MCC, and the office of security cooperation (OSC) here synchronized efforts with their UPDF counterparts. The OSC representatives in Mogadishu are the liaisons to distribute the necessary assets to AMISOM forces.
“An OSC conducts security force assistance for all troop-contributing countries,” said U.S. Army Maj. Leah Mock, Team Somalia OSC. “The OSC here is a part of the U.S. Embassy standing up in Mogadishu. Its job is to look forward to the equipment and gear needs for the troop-contributing countries and then meet those needs of the AMISOM troops fighting in their sector.”
According to AMISOM’s official website, it is an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia. While it is composed of multiple components, such as police, humanitarian, civilian and maritime, the military component is the largest. It is comprised of troops drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia. Ugandan troops are deployed in Sector 1, which comprises the regions of Banadir and Lower Shabelle.
While U.S. militaries’ chief approach is as a support function to regional partner nations, members of AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA remain a direct link in mitigating conflict in East Africa.
Mock said, “We are assessing the needs of those who are directly fighting against al-Shabaab. Daily, this mission plays a critical role in enabling our partners to fight violent extremists.”