Kenya Defense Forces troops' withdrawal from Somalia is dependent on peace, stability and transition framework laid down by African Union, Vice Chief of Defense Forces Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi has said.
For six years, Kenyan troops have been countering Al-Shabaab militants in the Horn of Africa nation. Despite several successes, KDF has also suffered fatalities with the death of over 200 soldiers at El-Adde in 2016 being the worst loss.
In an interview published by Africa Defense Forum Magazine, the second highest ranked soldier also said the situation in Somalia is encouraging, adding that AMISOM is gaining ground.
"Mission success in Somalia can be defined as resumption of peace and stability under a Somali-led government. I think one of the key issues that was discussed during the strategic Concept of Operations (CONOPS) summit held at the African Union was the importance of supporting the Somali Transitional Plan," said Kibochi.
"This CONOPS is designed to align itself to that particular transition plan, which goes up to 2021 as the timeline for AMISOM to leave Somalia. As a country we decided to be part of the multinational initiative called AMISOM under the African Union, and we will continue to be part of that effort until the transition aligning with the requirements of the Somali government is achieved," he noted.
But before the planned 2021 exit, Kibochi says, Somalia National Army must be effectively trained, equipped and organised to take over responsibilities being undertaken by KDF and allied forces in Somalia.
"To bring security and stability to Somalia, the security forces must be organized, trained up, and equipped for them to eventually take over the roles and responsibilities that the KDF and AMISOM troops are undertaking in Somalia. Being a neighbor, we very much want to find a lasting solution to the stability of our eastern neighbour," added the KDF chief.
In recent weeks, Al-Shabaab militants have intensified attacks in Somalia. A fortnight ago, KDF troops foiled an attack that targeted Afmadow Forward Operating Base. Also, Kenya suspended public transport in Mandera over the weekend following Al-Shabaab threats.