Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO: Ugandan Government.

Uganda has begun pulling its 281 troops serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) out of the country, Kenya’s Daily Nation reported on Thursday.

The Ugandan military has confirmed the step.The troop withdrawal is part of a larger UN plan to reduce AMISOM soldiers by 1,000 by the end of the year.

AMISOM currently has 20,000 soldiers serving with the organisation and Uganda the biggest contributor has 6,000 soldiers in total serving with the mission. Kampala was also the first country to send soldiers to war-stricken Somalia in 2007.

Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia are also expected to reduce their numbers by 31 December. 

There are plans to withdraw all AMISOM troops from Somalia by 2020, thereby turning full control of security in the Horn of Africa country to the Somali military.

But the Somali military has struggled to rid the country of Al Shabaab militants, and smaller and growing numbers of Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists, despite being supported by the AU and the United States who continue to carry out air strikes against Al Shabaab.

The combined forces had managed to clear the capital Mogadishu, and large swathes of the countryside of Al Shabaab, but over the last year or so the group has managed to resume large-scale attacks targeting the government, military and civilians, culminating in the more than 500 people killed in the capital in October during a twin bombing.

Al Shabaab’s resurging strength has been attributed to the use of more home-made and sophisticated explosives, the political fallout between the federal government and state governors and a split in the intelligence services.

In an endeavour to support Somali forces, the US has increased its troop numbers in the country to more than 500 and has increased its air strikes on the militants.

- African News Agency (ANA)