An Irish brigadier general leading an EU training mission in Somalia has warned the operation will not move to the capital, Mogadishu, until enough staff to protect instructors and medical facilities are in place.
Ten Irish defence force personnel are in the core 87-strong mission. Most of the training of Somalia’s defence forces takes place in Bihanga, Uganda, because of the security problems in Somalia, but the aim is to move when possible.
“The duty of care incumbent on me as mission commander towards the personnel of EUTM [EU training mission] Somalia provided by the member states will be adhered to and respected prior to making the definitive decision to move the operation to Mogadishu,” said Brig Gen Gerald Aherne yesterday, after he briefed EU defence ministers in Dublin on the mission.
The decision to move to Mogadishu would also be based on the security situation, said Gen Patrick de Rousiers, chairman of the EU’s military committee. “There is no timeframe, there is no decision. There is a willingness, an objective but there is no firm date,” he said.
The EU mission has since 2010 trained 3,000 members of the Somali defence forces who will be sent back to Somalia to help the government establish control over the country and stabilise the war-torn state. “They could be very significant players in the Somali national armed forces,” said Brig Gen Aherne.
The EU mission is also giving specialised training to 300 personnel from the 3,000 already trained. This would involve training for company commanders and military police, said Brig Gen Aherne. The training will also involve human rights training and protection of civilians.
The mission will provide strategic advice to Somalia’s defence ministry and army as well as advice on training.
Last month the EU extended the mandate of the mission until March 2015 with funding of €11.6 million provided. On February 1st, Brig Gen Aherne took over command of the mission from Col Michael Beary, also Irish.
Personnel from 12 EU member states and Serbia are involved in the mission.
The EU also has a naval operation and a civilian mission in Somalia to address the problems of piracy.