Irish troops could be training Somalian armed forces in Mogadishu within months, it emerged today.
An Irish general heading the EU military training mission (EUTM) revealed plans are being made to move the operation from Uganda.
Ten Irish troops are among 87 soldiers from 13 countries involved in the assignment.
Brigadier General Gerald Aherne said newly trained Somali soldiers are significant players in stabilising the troubled African country, which has been ravaged with civil wars and famine.
“To date we have trained some 3,000 Somalia men and women to help bolster the Somalia national armed forces,” he said.
“This group of people have made significant contributions to empowering the new Somali government in extending the footprint of their authority outside of Mogadishu and in to the rural areas.”
Somalia’s first formal parliament in more than 20 years was sworn in last year and this year 300 of its top troops will be given extra specialist training from EUMT, which authorities in Somalia have identified and requested.
For security reasons the training has been carried out in Bihanga, western Uganda.
However Brig Gen Aherne, who has visited Mogadishu twice, revealed the EU’s ambition in 2013 is to move the mission to Mogadishu, where the Somalian defence minister and general staff of the army will also be mentored and advised.
But officials warned the move will depend on security conditions on the ground as well as medical facilities. No time scale has been given for the move.
“We are presently working in ensuring that those conditions are in place prior to the movement of the mission to Mogadishu,” Brig Gen Aherne added.
“The duty of care that’s incumbent on me, as mission commander, towards the personnel of the EUTM Somalia provided by the member states will be adhered to and respected prior to making the definitely decision to move the operation to Mogadishu.”
Defence Minister Alan Shatter said Brig Gen Aherne – who took the position in recent weeks from Defences Forces colleague Colonel Michael Berry – gave EU defence ministers a detailed report on the proposed moved during at Dublin Castle.
“There are various arrangements to yet be put in place to facilitate that movement,” he said.