Ethiopia announced Friday that it will withdraw its forces from Somalia by the end of the year, leaving this country’s weak and fractured government to face an increasingly powerful Islamic insurgency.
Ethiopia — the region’s military powerhouse — has sent thousands of troops to support Somalia’s U.N.-backed government, which has failed to assert control over the country. The decision adds urgency to the Somali government’s long-standing request for international peacekeepers to deploy here.
Mohamed Olad Hassan, Associated Press Writer
“Regardless of what happens, we have decided to withdraw our troops from Somalia at the end of year,” Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Wahide Bellay said Friday in a telephone interview from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has asked for a U.N. peacekeeping force to replace a small African Union force that has largely been confined to its bases in the capital because of the violence. AU peacekeepers have struggled to maintain security, with only 2,600 of the mission’s approved 8,000 troops on the ground.
The U.N. Security Council has said that, if Somalia can improve security and political reconciliation, it would consider sending U.N. peacekeepers to replace AU forces.
On Friday, Wahide urged the international community to send peacekeepers, but said Ethiopia would not wait any longer for such a force to be assembled.