Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday in Djibouti.
They discussed a number of issues, including the fight against the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab and the Somalia-US security partnership as well as supporting Mogadishu’s campaign to lift an arms embargo on Somalia.
The embargo was imposed by the UN Security Council in early 1992 following the collapse of Somalia’s military regime.
“They discussed further enhancing the #Somalia-U.S. security partnership, support for the ongoing offensive against international terrorism, and efforts towards lifting the decades-long arms embargo,” the Somali presidency said in a brief statement posted on X after the meeting.
Marking his first trip to Africa as defense secretary, Austin will also visit Kenya and Angola to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the region and discuss “African-led solutions to mutual security challenges and underscore the importance of our partnerships on the continent,” he said in a statement after his arrival in Djibouti.
His meeting with Mohamud comes after the country suffered military setbacks in its fight against al-Shabaab after the terrorist group launched a deadly attack last month on an army camp in the town of Cowsweyne, resulting in a hasty military retreat from front lines.
Following the setbacks, Mogadishu has asked the UN Security Council for a three-month delay in a planned drawdown of troops from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
The unforeseen turn of events has stretched “our military forces thin, exposed vulnerabilities in our frontlines, and necessitated a thorough reorganization to ensure we maintain our momentum in countering the al-Shabaab threat,” said Somali National Security Advisor Hussein Sheikh Ali in a letter to the UN Security Council which Anadolu obtained on Friday.
Despite setbacks, the Somali National Army backed by local clan-based militias are continuing their operations against the terrorists.
On Saturday, the Somali Defense Ministry said the country’s armed forces had carried out a precision airstrike in the central province of Galgaduud targeting an al-Shabaab meeting house in the town of Elbur.
Top leaders including al-Shabaab’s finance and extortion chief, who was identified as only Sahal, were killed in the airstrike.
The country has been plagued by insecurity for years, with the main threats emanating from al-Shabaab and the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group.
Al-Shabaab has stepped up its attacks since President Mohamud declared an "all-out war" on the terrorist group in August 2022.