Former National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) director general and current National Security Advisor to the President, Fahad Yasin, published an article a week ago discussing his time with the national intelligence service. This English translation of his article originally written in Somali is in fact an overview of his work in restructuring the NISA into a respected agency in the intelligence world and includes his recollection of some telling events. The author, a very discreet man but the subject of passionate comments from his supporters and his enemies alike, here demystifies the work in securing the country by offering the public the human side of these faceless agents who protect the nation.
It was August 15, 2018, when the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, HE Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, appointed me Deputy Director of the National Security and Intelligence Agency. It was a big responsibility and a whole new job for me, but I saw the importance of working for the national intelligence service, which is to protect the peace and interests of the nation, the primary objective being to provide quality information that can make our intelligence data reliable and complete.
By gathering data and considering the work and responsibilities of the organization, I realized three very important things. First, it is through the quality of its intelligence services that a country is built, developed and its capabilities evaluated. Second, I have consulted officers, non-commissioned officers and various agents with knowledge and skills developed since the founding of the service in 1970, and armed with loyalty and patriotism.
Third, I met talented and educated young people who needed to be trained and organized, to counter terrorist organizations and other organized groups that threaten the security of our country. Thus, the agency has full control over enemy activities and information gathering.
The combination of these three means that the peace and prosperity of our people depends on the development and improvement of national intelligence, because a country without reliable security will never achieve the development and prosperity it seeks.
The directives and wills of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, with which I began my work, were based on the achievement of two objectives: 1) To restore the quality and capacity of the National Intelligence Service so it can compete with its regional and continental counterparts and align with the modern intelligence world; 2) Fulfill national security responsibilities at home and abroad at the same time.
The next step was to restore the confidence of the Somali people in the National Intelligence Service, starting with a peaceful and stable Mogadishu, which is a matter of collective attention.
At work, President Farmajo was constantly concerned about the number of dead and injured as a result of shelling and the direct targeting of civilians. Monthly statistics were presented to him on the security situation in the country, particularly in the capital, where sometimes more than 85 crimes were committed within a month. Bombings and direct attacks resulted in death, injury and destruction of property.
The establishment of the undercover officers (or Civil Protection) unit became a successful project and became the guardian angel of the community. High-level training and capacity building of educated young people led to the establishment of the Civil Protection Unit.
I remember in particular that an undercover agent was offered the possibility of being appointed district commissioner. The officer rejected the offer, saying, “Civil Protection is the best job I can do for the nation, and that is to protect the lives and property of our community.” This story shows how important it is for Somali youth to ensure the safety of civilians and the entire nation.
There was a consensual plan, and it was a very grand plan that laid the groundwork for the emergence of an institution that emerged from the brainstorming of well-trained young professionals, working to turn their ideas into work for the benefit of the people and the nation.
As a result, we had to discard any product whose inception we as a nation did not control and whose operability is within our means, an organization free from foreign assistance and constant foreign surveillance.
It was the best course of action. These steps have led us to guide the Somali Intelligence Agency with the knowledge and experience created by Somali boys and girls who care about the development of their country.
Assessed on a quarterly basis, the security situation in the country had improved. The death toll from various acts of terrorism was falling. It has reached a dramatic decline to such an extent that in some months less than nine crimes were committed, which killed or injured ninety percent less than in previous years.
For the president and the various leaders of the nation, it was a source of joy and progress, and they constantly encouraged the good work done by the national security agencies in general, and the various intelligence services in particular.
During the Cold War, our intelligence service was a world-class service and had a profound effect on world politics and international relations.
Several African governments we have met at various times have told us how Somali intelligence has contributed to the building of their country and the establishment of their intelligence agency, both in terms of training and equipment.
The head of an African intelligence agency who visited me in Mogadishu opened our meeting by saying that it was at this NISA [formerly NSS] center that he had received his first training in the creation of the intelligence service of his country in 1979, and again asked us to provide him with a counter-terrorism training.
The most effective intelligence agencies in the world claim that NISA is one of the most powerful counter-terrorism agencies in Africa while, in the Horn of Africa, NISA is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, and its intelligence and expertise are credible.
During my three years as director general of the National Intelligence Agency, we have received official visits from up to eight directors general of the most powerful countries in the world and other African countries, including our neighbors with whom we face the same threat, all aware of the capabilities and expertise of Somali intelligence officers.
I will never forget those incredible success stories that had a profound effect on peace and stability. Of course, I can’t tell them all, but I will recount one or two. We learned that an agency officer had secretly married a female Al-Shabab operative. This officer was the second officer the woman married in this way. The goal was for her to get a safe haven in the city, to use this opportunity to fulfill her job, and ultimately eliminate the officer.
The officer was instructed to live and behave normally with her and to fully collect data from the network she was working with. The operation facilitated the arrest of 12 Al-Shabab members, who operated in various locations. They were further investigated, after which they were found guilty by a court-martial which imposed various sentences.
There was also a mother who had met the membership requirements to join the intelligence service and was part of a new group of Civil Protection trainees. When the mother read the necessary documents that she was supposed to sign, she entered one of the offices where she had to sign the papers. To her surprise, she found her son waiting for her in the office to sign the paper. The boy was informed the same day, an hour earlier, that the list given to him included his mother. Much to his delight, his mother, unaware of his work, legally found out where her son worked.
The backbone of NISA’s development are the different segments of our population, some of whom live in different countries. Thanks to their contribution, our intelligence has made great achievements. At the same time, it is widely recognized that an intelligence service can achieve its goals when guided by a president with a far-reaching national vision. This is why President Farmajo has always been a partner and a commander-in-chief of the national armed forces.
It is certain that the aspirations of the Somali people to a stable government require the development and strengthening of the capacities of the national security and intelligence services. It is also certain that the people of Somalia are satisfied with the existence and improvement of Somali national security and intelligence.
When you do good deeds, have good intentions, and have educated and skilled people to work with, you can expect good results that will benefit your nation.