Here in Mogadishu, there is one group that everyone knows, and when you mention its name, people look at you funny. Alpha Group. Nobody will talk about them, and you will never see them unless they are really needed. Even then, all you see are green balaclavas on some high-speed guys who, when you get too close, take aim at you and tell you to fuck off.

Alpha Group is made up of Somalia’s best and most highly trained men. They are the tip of the spear here, and lead the way when it comes to special operations in Somalia. Their fearsome reputation precedes them; everyone knows who they are and nobody will get in their way.

Here in Mogadishu, the security situation is a mess. In the capital alone there are multiple armed groups, not just Al-Shabaab, that control large areas. Somalia needed a quick-reaction force (QRF) to deal with these groups, a unit that would operate outside of the corrupt government’s grip. In 2010, they got their answer thanks to the Americans. In late 2010, Alpha Group was deployed, and since then they have done the business time and time again. But the only way they could be successful was to operate outside of the government’s oversight. Now the group only operates in Mogadishu and the city’s outskirts. Their AO is about 100 square kilometers—that is their limit. They specialize in high-risk hostage rescues, unconventional warfare, and close-quarters battle (CQB). They’ve been trained in the most current counter-insurgency tactics, most likely based on the American manual and that country’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alpha Group collects their own intel, runs their own intelligence-gathering operations, and has their own surveillance operations, but the CIA provides intel when necessary. All of this is kept within the unit, largely because the corruption in Mogadishu makes it impossible to trust outside help, even within the government. Al-Shabaab can infiltrate just about anywhere here in the capital, and there are informants and spies on every street corner. This is largely due to Somali’s history and their clan-based mentality. Everyone in some form or another is related, and it’s not uncommon to meet people here with cousins, uncles, nephews, and friends in Al-Shabaab. So with that in mind, Alpha Group trusts no one, and I can’t blame them.