Mogadishu, Somalia — Recently the newest elected Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo along with senior Somali Army Chiefs have replaced troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with specially trained Somali Army forces trained under the tutelage of United Arab Emirates (UAE), military trainers within the UAE government-funded training facility opened inside the Somali capital city of Mogadishu two years prior.
The government of the United Arab Emirates is apart of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, or simply The Gulf States, which includes countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar, and is one of the largest donors to the stabilization of Somalia and its strongest partner in the fight against the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen; which has been terrorizing the southern portion of Somalia with its apocalyptic radical Salafist leaning Islamist ideals since late 2007.
The UAE funded training facility is being heralded as one of the biggest joint military training centers in Somalia whose main mission is to whip the Somali National Army (SNA) troops assigned to train there into an effective fighting force with a focus on counter-insurgency operations as well as being able to protect the country of Somalia from the continued threat of al-Shabaab terror attacks. UAE’s Ambassador to Somalia, Mohammed Al Othman, said at the opening of the training center in the fall of 2015 that, “[T]he UAE will spare no effort to stand by the Somali people, who have been enduring the scourge of civil war and terrorism for more than two decades,” Ambassador Othman continued, “The UAE is working hard to provide the necessary support that helps Somalia to restore its security and stability.” The first UAE-trained SNA brigade hit the streets of Mogadishu sometime on or near mid-May of this year.
The freshly UAE-trained Somali Army brigade will also be joining forces in securing the capital city of Mogadishu with the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency’s (NISA) special forces counter-terror unit known as the Danab Group, one of the U.S. Special Forces trained commando units from what is known as The Gashaan, or The Shield.
The Danab Group, who is better known for quelling several hostage situations perpetrated by al-Shabaab within Mogadishu, was seen last month surrounding the newly elected Farmaajo coming from his daily meetings within Villa Somalia which is known as “principal workplace and residence of the President of Somalia.” Normally the Somali president would have been flanked by security elements of AMISOM themselves , however due to serious security lapses prompted the Somali cabinet to not only replace AMISOM security forces but to replace all current SNA troops that were not trained in the UAE training enter from the city itself.
Some 2000-4000 SNA troops were ordered out of Mogadishu and back to their respective camps in and around Balidogle airbase just outside the city limits by the Somali Army Chief Mohamud Aden. SOFREP spoke with local Somali journalist for the East African news outlet The Messenger, Abdirizak Mohamud Tuuryare as to the reasons why this drastic action may have taken place.
Tuuryare believes the security shake up in Mogadishu is a direct result of the terrible security conditions that is a result of the poorly trained SNA troops within the city which have been failing in twarting al-Shabaab bombing attacks within the city as well as protecting Somali politicians from assassinations. Tuuryare feels that the SNA troops ordered out of Mogadishu is “a bid to disarm armed men, who are guarding politicians. It is a new plan suggested by Somali cabinet ministers following after minister Siraji [who was] shot dead in Mogadishu last month.”
Pres Farmaajo, "I am deeply saddened by the death of minister Abass. He was young, diligent and patriotic"
— Villa Somalia (@TheVillaSomalia) May 3, 2017
Abbas Abdullahi Sheikh Siraji, Somalia’s Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction, was shot and killed near the entrance to the Somali presidential palace last month by bodyguards escorting the Somali Auditor General, Nur Farah. Farah’s bodyguards thought that Siraji’s vehicle was following too close and assumed it was an al-Shabaab suicide bomber and opened fire on the minister’s vehicle killing the youngest minister in the history of Somalia.
The hiring of armed personal bodyguards by Somali cabinet members is a direct result of SNA troops that were tasked with securing the capital have failed to do just that and hence why Tuuryare feels the main reason why Somali Army Chief Aden’s decision to order the ineffectual SNA forces out of the city and replace them with the UAE-trained SNA special troops into the city to take over security operations. Which the UAE-trained brigade along with the NISA run Danab Group have already been making headway as the Chief of the Somali National Armed Forces, General Mohamed A Jimale tweeted on June 3rd that a joint anti-terrorism task squad of NISA, SNA, and Somali special police had conducted a successful massive security operation within the city of Mogadishu against al-Shabaab ‘cells’ inside the city planning future terrorists attacks.
— Gen Mohamed A Jimale (@ChiefOfSNAF) June 3, 2017
The United States military is also increasing its presence by deploying about 60 soldiers from the Fort Campbell, KY based 101st Airborne Division‘s, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team last month for a six-week deployment to train the Somali National Army in logistics operations. This is the first deployment of regular army non-special operations troops to the country of Somalia since 1993 and the 426th Support Battalion will work closely with SNA forces in teaching them intermediate to advanced combat medicine, supply-chain accountability, and administrative tasks as well as headquarters and staff officer training to further the modernization of the SNA forces into an effective fighting force.
The 101st Airborne Division troops are focused on bolstering the Somali army’s logistics capabilities rather than conducting combat arms training. The spokesperson for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Chuck Prichard stated that “[T]his mission is not associated with teaching counter-extremism tactics,” denoting that the 101st troops mission is exclusively focused on support and leadership training and not combat arms training. Prichard then added that the government of Somalia requested this training from AFRICOM.
With AMISOM slotted to withdraw completely from Somalia by 2020, it seems that both the Gulf States and the United States are truly attempting to give the war-torn nation a professional military through exceptionally financed training that will hopefully produce an army that will be able to protect Somalia from the threats from al-Shabaab and finally destroy the terrorist group as well as support other nations of the African Union as a potential regional peace-keeping force in the future.
Feature image courtesy: Reuters/Radio Dalsan