Here in Somalia, being in the police force must be one of the hardest jobs given the very complex environment in which they must operate. In Mogadishu, at any time there could be an attack—not just from al-Shabaab, but from other militia groups in the city. To top that off, you don’t know who’s an al-Shabaab militant or who their spies/informants are. If that is not enough to put you off, maybe not getting paid or not having enough food would. Even your fellow police officers might sell you out because al-Shabaab pays more.

Why they still man the streets is beyond me. I really feel for these guys. They are the first line of defense here in Mogadishu and usually the first to die here, too. Think of them as you like, but I respect them. Even though many would kidnap me or sell me out in a heartbeat, I still have to take my hat off to them. They are battling every day with al-Shabaab, plus other groups, and any day could be their last. And for what? To go home and not have enough money to put food on the table for your family?

The following is an interview I conducted with a high-ranking police officer who has been in Somalia’s police force since 2007.

SOFREP: Can you tell me what was it like for the police here in Mogadishu in 2007?

Back in 2007, when I joined the police here in Somalia, there were only 500 police officers trained. We worked in groups of 20, covering different parts of the city. It was a very active place in 2007. Al-Shabaab was everywhere in the city. There were gunfights every day, all day and night. They often surrounded us and outnumbered us. They would push us back one day and lose ground the next.

What operations did the police carry out back then?

In 2007, we were on the front line, so normal police duties did not matter. We were like an army, acting as front-line troops fighting al-Shabaab. We were trying to push them out of the city, but the front line changed every day. They had numbers and firepower on their side and we did not. They built tunnels around the city to move through, which made it hard for us to track them. We would be sent in to clear these areas and tunnels, which was a stressful job.

What sort of training did you receive and from whom?