While the United States announced last month the withdrawal of its troops stationed in Somalia, some 700 soldiers, on December 23 the European Council extended the mandates of its operations in Somalia: EUCAP Somalia, the civilian police capacity building mission; EUTM Somalia, the Somali Army training mission; and Operation Atalanta, the European Union's maritime military executive operation. This new mandate started on 1 January 2021 and will end on 31 December 2022.
This decision follows the revision of the holistic Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) strategy in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, which aims to strengthen the European Union's response in its position as one of the providers of security in the area. Bearing in mind Donald Trump's decision to withdraw most of his American troops who were training Somali soldiers, the fact that the EU is extending its missions and broadening its mandates with different tasks will imply the continuity of the international community's commitment to this area of the world, which is ravaged by instability, Jihadism, piracy and various forms of trafficking.
The new mandate of Operation Atalanta began on January 1 and includes new tasks to be carried out by this operation, which was originally conceived as an anti-piracy operation in 2008 for the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean region. In this new period, the mission will have non-executive tasks mainly related to illegal fishing and new executive tasks related to the prevention of illegal trafficking in drugs and arms. In this way, they will be able to cut off the financing of terrorist groups in the area such as Al-Shabaab. The geographical scope is also being expanded from the western part of the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea via the Bab el Mandeb strait. These adjustments will make it possible to better ensure the safety and stability of maritime trade in that region. They will also be able to better protect vulnerable vessels such as those of the UN World Food Programme. Although unknown to the Spanish and French, Operation Atalanta has its headquarters in Rota and the Maritime Security Centre- Horn of Africa (MSCHoA) is in Brest. Operation Atalanta is one of the most important examples of Spanish-French cooperation in defence and security matters in Africa within a European mission. Thus, Spain is using the French air base in Djibouti as a support base for the P3-C maritime patrol aircraft it has assigned to Atalanta.
As for EUTM Somalia, this mission started in 2010 to train, educate and
advise the Somali National Army. In this seventh mandate that is
beginning, it will focus on the training and skills part of the Somali
forces as part of the transition strategy of AMISOM (African Union
Mission in Somalia). The EU mission will thus concentrate on
strengthening Somali ownership of a training system in which their
policies, processes and experiences are taken into account to better
adapt to their needs. The EUTM mission not only trains the
soldiers of the Somali Army, but also provides them with the necessary
equipment to do so. EUCAP Somalia started in 2012 as a civilian
maritime training mission in Somalia, including the Somaliland region.
In this new period they will focus on training to strengthen maritime
law enforcement capacities regionally, including in Puntland, and on
building the capacity of the police by strengthening links with the
INTERPOL centre in the capital.
EU operations have largely succeeded in stopping piracy in the Gulf of Aden region, yet challenges remain that must be prioritised for international missions. These include strengthening the rule of law in the oldest failed state in the modern world, especially in the light of the upcoming parliamentary elections in January and presidential elections in February. Furthermore, the threat of Jihadism continues to be the main source of insecurity, the Al-Shabaab group. The instability in Yemen and Ethiopia is also a cause for alarm to the European Union missions in the area.