Somali Armed Forces Succeeded Where AMISOM Failed

“The armed forces of the Federal Republic of Somalia have the mandate to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of the country and to defend its territorial integrity” – Somali Constitution, Ch.14 (3)

The Commander of the Somali National Army (SNA), General Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, at a press conference yesterday on the outskirts of Qey’ad in the Mudug region, triumphantly announced the end of the fighting against Al-Shabab militants in the Mudug region.

The militants were either killed, captured or fled in many parts of the Mudug region after a month of heavy fighting supported by aerial bombardment. The army seized firearms, communications equipment, various supplies and Al-Shabab hideouts during the last battle.

In recent months, the Somali people have been captivated by the new dynamism of the Somali National Army and its zeal to wage a fierce fight against the Al-Shabab, an extremist organization that has been sowing terror in Somalia for a dozen years.

Additionally, the security forces has had to increase its efforts to effectively tackle the insecurity and lawlessness that has claimed the lives of countless Somalis, destroyed communities and their livelihoods, and displaced millions of people since 1991.

The SNA is also in the process of taking over national security responsibilities from AMISOM, African troops funded by Europe and the United States and whose mandate ends on December 31, 2021.

General Tahlil Bihi posing with soldiers in Amara, Mudug region, after the SNA victory on August 2, 2021 – source: SONNA

Government takes control of the security

After his election, the current president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo made one of his priorities the autonomy of the administration in matters of security, the elimination of clan or religious militias which terrorize the population and the recovery of a total sovereignty in decision making.

Gone are the days when an Ethiopian military junta officer took care of Villa Somalia security and that the three previous presidents Abdullahi Yusuf, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mahamoud could not bypass or even dare to confront.

The protection of Villa Somalia, the presidential compound, and other federal buildings are now ensured by a special army unit, the Red Berets, and by a professional police service which has been trained and equipped by Turkey.

The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) activities and its coordination with other national security forces have also improved to the point of chilling all forces that have so far profited from the chaos in Somalia.

Thus, recent security operations in southern regions have brought together federal and regional forces that previously had little communication due to lack of trust.

For example, the recent operations in Mudug coordinated by the army command, we saw the participation of troops under direct command of the SNA but also the Danab commando, trained and supervised by the Americans, the NISA forces and Galmudug regional paramilitary police forces.

All these growing successes are mainly due to the nationalist platform of the current administration, the new-found stability of the government, the financial discipline that has uprooted corrupt practices within the SNA, the promotion of young officers and the aid from friendly countries of which Turkey is in the first rank.

Graduation ceremony at the Turksom Military Academy, July 31, 2021.

Fallout from SNA’s military successes

We have seen the country make progress in several security-related sectors.

First, in the sector of the economy crippled by the extortion and kidnapping of Al-Shabab and other outlaws, the army cleared the roads through which goods and local agricultural products passed.

In Mogadishu, the national capital, despite recent desperate al-Shabab attacks and violence by presidential candidates in recent months, residents reassured by an increased military and police presence have regained their freedom of movement and entrepreneurial spirit.

In addition, the expansion of security activities in other urban and rural areas of the country has improved the movement of people in previously dangerous or isolated areas of the country.

Now, with the election period in full swing, it is possible to campaign in remote areas. For example, the recent visit of former presidents and President of Hirshabelle to Adale was made possible by army clean-up operations over the past two years.

The victories of an army limited by the arms embargo but very brave allowed populations previously terrorized, extorted and forcibly recruited by Al-Shabab to regain courage and collaborate, without fear of reprisals, with the national security services.

The SNA achieved these successes not only by arms, but also by force of deterrence and persuasion. The numerous defeats and surrenders of Al-Shabab fighters and collaborators have facilitated the disorganization of these violent groups.

Thus, in the case of fugitive militia leader Abdirashid Janan Gedo, this strategy of deterrence by force and persuasion in the form of incentives, including a presidential pardon, eased the pressure in this region which is now preparing for peaceful elections.

PM Roble visits troops.
PM Mohamed H. Roble accompanied by the Health minister fawsiya A. Nur, the Chief of Staff Gen. Odowa Rageh and Gen. Tahlil Bihi visited troops stationed in Awdheegle, Lower Shabelle on the SNA anniversary on April 12, 2021

The rise of the Somali army

The army’s relentless offensive attacks on multiple fronts in Mudug, Middle Shabelle, Hiran, Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba have decimated al-Shabab insurgents, disorganized their ranks and shrunk their territory.

Al-Shabab had spread like cancer from Puntland to Jubaland since the invasion of Ethiopian troops under the Tigray Popular Liberation Front (TPLF) regime in 2006 and under the very nose of AMISOM.

Since May, a strong military campaign led by the Chief of Staff, the young General Odowa Rageh, the SNA has embarked on a campaign to liberate several territories in Middle Shabelle. Despite the obvious successes, the single-player campaign aroused AMISOM’s irritation, which refused to provide air support.

The president and senior SNA officials hold the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia much more at heart than any other foreign troops that have come to the country to advance interests other than peace in Somalia.

With renewed patriotism and vigor, however, the SNA has relegated AMISOM to the background of maintaining security in the country even though these African troops are better paid and equipped, and wield considerable firepower.

However, now the successful military operations of Somali troops have demonstrated the futility of a foreign presence which is increasingly resented and to which only the leaders of Puntland and Jubaland would remain attached.

At the current rate, Somalia could well and truly regain control of the entire national territory under al-Shabab terror in the next four months.

Somali security forces fighting against Al-Shabab militants in the outskirt of Dhusamareb town, May 2021.

In the meantime, young recruits are continuously receiving quality training at the Turksom base in Mogadishu and Turkey and their addition to the SNA will inject new blood and improve the discipline essential within an army which still features formerly nationalized clan militias who are sensitive to divisive speeches from a disillusioned opposition.

Looking ahead

The liberation operations in collaboration with the regional security forces, which claimed many victims in the ranks of Al-Shabab, and the invitation to surrender and redemption of the militants, demonstrated the merit of a Somali solution to the peacekeeping in the country.

Even with these achievements, the SNA is an institution still in reconstruction. However, without the now unnecessary arms embargo and the government’s limitation on entering military alliances in Kenya’s crafted constitution, this boom is likely to stall.

AbdiQani Badar

AbdiQani Badar is a historian, political commentator and avid writer. He has written extensively on Somali issues and historical events.