Military personnel from the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) gathered Monday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for training aimed at countering the threat from the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab.
The Justified Accord Exercise 2017, the first such training held in Ethiopia, was organized jointly by the US and Ethiopian armed forces, US military sources said.
AMISOM members from Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, as well as Somali soldiers, were attending the training facilitated by the US, the Netherlands, Britain, the AU and the UN.
"Almost 100 participants from a total of eight nations have assembled here to establish and maintain peace ... in the East Africa region," said Brigadier Jon A Jensen, deputy commander of the US Army in Africa.
"We will spend a week here looking at a specific scenario. This week our specific scenario is the African Union mission in Somalia," he added.
Ethiopian Colonel Elias Seyoum said the training would be followed by a field exercise in 2018.
"The aim is to change the AMISOM mission's leadership to a Somalia government-led one by 2020," Seyoum said.
"But this isn't an exit strategy," he added, saying the move would not mean the handover of all operations to the government in Mogadishu.
"Al-Shabaab's fighting capability has declined by up to 40 per cent in recent years, but its ability to use suicide bombs and detonators has increased," Seyoum said.
"The hope is the government in Somalia and the society at large will manage to deal with this challenge in the coming years. The mission won't be in Somalia forever," he added.
AMISOM has about 22,000 troops in the Horn of Africa country to help the government fight al-Shabaab, whose decade-long campaign for a fundamentalist state has claimed thousands of lives.