New York - The war against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia
has "ground to a halt" and needs a surge of almost 4 400 more African
Union troops and massive UN assistance to break the stalemate and avoid
failure, a top UN official said on Wednesday.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security
Council that the UN-endorsed African Union force and the Somali military lack
"the capacity to push beyond areas already recovered" from al-Qaeda-linked
group in the last 18 months during a successful campaign to recapture several
cities, including Mogadishu and Kismayo.
Eliasson presented the Security Council with recommendations
from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the AU force be boosted by 2 550 combat
troops and 1 845 ground-support troops for the next 18 to 24 months.
Ban also called for another 1 000 troops for a UN guard
force to prevent attacks like the recent suicide bombing at the UN compound in
Mogadishu, and for another 840 police officers.
On 19 June, al-Shabaab forces invaded the UN compound in
Mogadishu with a truck bomb and then poured inside, killing at least 13 people
before dying in the assault. It was the first direct attack on a UN building in
Somalia since 2008.
If the Security Council approves the additional troops, that
would boost the force to about 24 000 personnel, up from its current level of
just over 17 700 soldiers and police.
"It is hard to ask for additional resources in our
present difficult financial environment," Eliasson said. "But it is
my duty to advise this council that, without increased support, our present —
and indeed past — investment in peace, and that of millions of Somalis, may be
The Security Council is focused on the al-Shabab threat
after the September attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by al-Shabab
terrorists in which at least 67 people were killed.
The AU mission in Somalia is meant to pave the way for an
eventual UN peacekeeping force. It is led by Ugandan officers and has large
Kenya and Burundi contingents.
Somalia has long been plagued by cyclical drought and famine
and decades of armed conflict. But in recent years it has been seen as making
strides in security and governance, particularly since August 2011, when al-Qaeda-aligned
militants were forced out of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab militants still control much
of the country's south.