Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to the Pentagon today praising the Somali leader for real progress at a very dangerous time.
Austin said the two men are meeting at a key moment in Mohamud’s presidency as the African Union begins a drawdown in the country and Somali forces are stepping up.
“This period will be especially important given the ongoing hostilities — including instability in Sudan — and the persistent threat of al-Shabaab,” Austin said. “I’ve been encouraged to hear of the continued success of the current phase of Somali-led operation against al-Shabaab in central Somalia. Our cooperation on these operations is crucial, and we stand ready as your partner as you defend yourselves against these dangerous and violent forces.”
The United States also stands ready to aid Somalia against other dangers, including providing effective responses to climate shocks such as the current drought. The drought has caused hunger and devastation in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa.
Austin thanked the Somali president for the “transparency of your security initiatives and the inclusion of key international partners in the planning of the Somali-led transition. As we look to 2025 and beyond, I remain grateful for the willingness of your government and your people to host our forces in Somalia.”
Mohamud thanked Austin for America’s aid and support over more than three decades. While still facing tremendous hurdles, the country is closer to peace than it has been for a long time, the president said. “I would like to extend my gratitude to the United States government for the assistance to the Somali people in our fight against al-Shabaab,” he told Austin.
Mohamud said the Somali National Army has recovered more than 70 locations from al-Shabaab in partnership with local communities over the last year. He said the military and government have also improved upon security through enhanced intelligence efforts, which have meant a “marked reduction” in attacks in the capital city of Mogadishu.
“Somalia has been in a unique situation,” the president said. “We are again and again very grateful for the support provided by the United States. Many issues that I have raised with you last time when I visited here [are] still standing. But so far, we are so good, and we are very much satisfied for the level of support provided. I thank you.”