BRUSSELS - The European Union agreed on Monday to set up a military mission in Uganda to train Somali government forces who are fighting an Islamist insurgency.
The mission, expected to be led by Spain and involving around 100 troops, should begin in the second quarter of this year, EU foreign ministers decided at a meeting in Brussels.
The EU should ... continue to help stabilise Somalia by providing support to vital and priority areas such as the security sector, development, assistance to the population and capacity-building support, they said in a statement.
In this context, the Council agreed to set up a military mission to contribute to training of Somali security forces.
Some EU member states expressed concern that training Somali troops and providing them with guns could cause more problems than it solves if there were not long-term commitments in place to pay them and give them institutional support.
Those issues, including the vetting of trainees and the monitoring of the force once it is back in Mogadishu, must be addressed before the mission gets under way, the ministers said.
Spain and France have already committed troops to the training team and other countries are expected to follow, including Britain, Slovenia, Greece and Hungary.
Somalia has had no central government since 1991. Foreign governments have stepped up efforts to stabilise the country in the past three or four years, since it became a major source of piracy, with dozens of ships and crew taken hostage for ransom.
Since the start of 2007, conflict in Somalia has killed 20,000 civilians and uprooted more than 1.5 million from their homes. The government is confined to a few small blocks of the capital and exerts little influence over the state.
An African Union force is on the ground protecting the government's key institutions, but Somalia needs a larger contingent of its own capable, reliable troops.
The EU mission is expected to train around 2,000 Somali troops and complement other missions, bringing the total of better-trained Somali soldiers to around 6,000.
The EU said its mission would be conducted in coordination with Somali's transitional government, Uganda, the African Union, the United Nations and the United States.