Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Somalia: Why is the US in combat?

Advise, Assist, Train, yes, and, Find, Target and Destroy!

By Ed Marek, editor

December 17, 2018

Regional players enter the scene - The birth of AMISOM

I mentioned in the previous section that in 2004 the regional body called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Trade and Development (IGAD) set up the Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). I suggested setting up a government was a bit outside its mission. It's now 2006.

I'll need briefly to step back in time just a bit.

East Africa heads of state from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Eritrea had established a forum known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in 1996.

Its job was to coordinate management of the drought and future development. It was effectively meant to be a regional trade bloc. IGAD was headquartered in Djibouti.

The leaders of these non-Somali IGAD states could see plainly that the ciivl war in Somalia threatened them. They were right. Al-Shabaab conducted attacks against them, most notably against Kenya but also Uganda and Ethiopia. Governance in Somalia was a mess, the insurgency had increased its power, and national security was impossible.

African Union Summit January 2006

The African Union (AU) attempted in September 2006 to organize an African peace support mission in Somalia known as Inter-Governmental Authority Somalia (IGASOM). The UN Security Council (UNSC) approved. The AU tasked IGAD to organize and field the force. IGAD's focus was on development and environmental control. But the UN tasking attempted to move IGAD into Somali security. It had already been tasked to set up a government for Somalia.

IGASOM was to support the peace process and bring order to Somalia, a mission far beyond the development and environmental control purpose of IGAD. It had already been tasked to set up a government for Somalia.

The IGASOM military force was to take the field in 2006. That failed to materialize. The UNSC and AU would now have to come up with a new plan.

In response to the failure of IGASOM, the UNSC authorised the AU to deploy a peacekeeping mission with a mandate of six months. It was named African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). The UNSC saw the mission as short-term.

The UNSC's emphasis was on support to transitional governmental structures, implementation of a national security plan, training the Somali security forces, and assisting in creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid. However, AMISOM also was to support the government's forces against al-Shabaab. That meant AMISOM would fight offensively against al-Shabaab, unusual for a peacekeeping mission.

AMISOM deployed to Somalia in March 2007, roughly in the middle of the Somali Civil War of 2006-2009. Uganda was the first to deploy troops, a battle group of 1,600 men Burundi followed with a battalion in early 2008. By the end of 2008 AMISOM consisted of one Burundian and two Ugandan battalions, totaling 2,650. Other countries would join later, but slowly.

The US began supporting AMISOM as soon as it deployed in 2007. The U.S., working through DynCorp., provided equipment, logistical support, peacekeeping training, and maintained a naval presence off-shore to prevent al-Qaeda and other militants from escaping Somalia by sea. The US African Command (AFRICOM) said:

"U.S. equipment support has included armored personnel carriers, trucks, communications equipment, water purification devices, generators, tents, night vision equipment, and helicopters. The U.S. Government provided peacekeeping training to AMISOM through the Department of State’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program."

Al-Shabaab by this time had emerged as a powerful entity. Its forces attacked AMISOM as soon as it got there. Security continued to deteriorate throughout 2008. By year's end Somalia was still mired in conflict with no end in sight. Not only were al-Shabaab and the warlords fighting against AMISOM, Somalis were fighting amongst themselves in the civil war of 2006-2009.

AMISOM forces designated to remain in Mogadishu set up camp at the Mogadishu International Stadium in 2011. State-sponsored armed groups and outlawed militia had been using the stadium for some 30 years. In 1993 US forces used the stadium as their main base. Once US forces withdrew, clan militias and warlords moved back in. The stadium enabled the militias and warlords to control most of northern Mogadishu. Ethiopian forces also used it while fighting against the ICU to seize back control of Mogadishu. In 2009 it was al-Shabaab's favorite base. AMISOM took control of the stadium from al-Shabaab on September 6, 2011.

AMISOM turned over the stadium to the government on August 27, 2018. The AMISOM forces relocated to Jazeera Camp II. It hosts about 1,000 soldiers.

Somali President resigns, a new one takes over

Abdullahi Yusuf remained the president of the TFG through December 29, 2009, when he resigned. He had admitted in November 2008 that insurgents controlled most of the country. Furthermore, Ethiopian forces began withdrawing. His government proved to be weak. Yusuf said this in his resignation speech:

"When I took power I pledged three things. If I was unable to fulfill my duty I will resign. Second, I said I will do everything in my power to make government work across the country. That did not happen either. Third, I asked the leaders to co-operate with me for the common good of the people. That did not happen."

Some observers felt the resignation was a good thing, one that would pave the way to achieve a peace deal with the Islamists. The Speaker of the Parliament became a temporary president.

Ethiopian military forces left Somalia on January 25, 2009.

Given the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, al-Shabaab moved quickly and captured Baidoa on January 26, 2009. Most of the parliament had already left Baidoa bound for Djibouti.

On January 27, 2009 the parliament, working from Djibouti, expanded its representatives to 275.

The parliament elected Sheikh Sharif Ahmed the seventh President of Somalia on January 31, 2009. He had once been the leader of the ICU.

New TFG President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed arrived in Mogadishu as a president for the first time on February 7, 2009. His government with the help of AMISOM drove al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu.

The TFG, however, was in trouble. Not only was it weak, it now lost Ethiopian military support, which arguably was the only reason the TFG was still alive. Fighting continued largely between al-Shabaab and the Somali army and government supported militias. Power sharing agreements were signed but they were worthless.

The interim period of the TFG officially ended in August 2012. Clan elders selected 14,000 delegates who in turn elected 275 members of the Lower House of parliament. Regional assembles nominated members of the Upper House. This is a photo of parliamentarians gathering at the heavily guarded Mogadishu Airport complex. I wish to draw your attention to this "Mogadishu Airport complex." US and regional military forces had been using the airport as their base of operations for many years, at least going back to 1993. I will talk more about it in the next section. It is still being used and has been expanded substantially.

Somalia established its first Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in September 2012 to replace the TFG. The parliament had approved a new Constitution. The FGS is internationally recognized. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who had presided over the last TFG, also became president of the new FGS. He was in the saddle until 2016. He was a university professor and dean but involved in politics as well. He was active in promoting national reconciliation. Furthermore, he established good relations with the US. He met with Secretary oil State Clinton in Washington and with Secretary Kerry in Mogadishu, the first ever visit by the US secretary of state to Somalia.

In February 2017, the FGS completed its first national electoral process since the 2012 transition. The voters were limited to 275 members of parliament and 54 senators. They selected a new president, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as “Farmajo." His campaign was based on nationalism, freedom from famine, and the defeat of the Islamic militant movement of Al-Shabaab. He was sworn into office on February 16, 2017. Farmajo was educated in the US and holds dual Somalia-US citizenship. The photo shows him speaking at his inauguration.

President Farmajo's speech at his inauguration included the following:

"Beside me are two former presidents, this is a sign of democracy. Now, it’s time to compete with the world. We will work to take clear steps to restore the public's confidence in the government, serving our people will be the core value of the government…. I will lead by example to empower the rule of law in Somalia … To those who work with al Qaeda, al Shabaab and IS (Islamic State), your time is finished … you have been misled, destroyed property and killed many Somalis. Come and we shall give you a good life."

I have made this political evolution sound simple. It was not. But I need to press on with the security issues.

Bertelsmann Stiftung, a private operation foundation that funds projects that contribute to social reform, published a Country Report on Somalia 2018. The report said this about FGS security:

"AMISOM forces maintained their hold over major towns in south-central Somalia, but al-Shabaab continues to control large rural areas and some towns. The Islamist militia launched a series of attacks against government institutions and government supporters, including their international allies. It also re-engaged in direct military confrontations, and launched attacks on AMISOM and government military bases."

In October 2014, the UNSC "authorized the African Union mission (AMISOM) to take all measures, as appropriate, to carry out support for dialogue and reconciliation by assisting with free movement, safe passage and protection of all those involved in a national reconciliation congress involving all stakeholders, including political leaders, clan leaders, religious leaders and representatives of civil society." The AMISOM mandate has been extended through May 31, 2019. This is an important date. Keep it in mind.

AMISOM develops into a semi-permanent fixture

In a paper entitled "
AMISOM’s Hard-Earned Lessons in Somalia," published on May 30, 2018, the Africa Center said this:

"Although AMISOM is often called a peacekeeping or peace enforcement mission, in fact, AMISOM is a combat mission fighting a terrorist insurgency in Somalia.

"When it first deployed to Somalia in 2007, Islamist militants controlled most of Somalia and large swaths of the capital, Mogadishu. AMISOM’s first task was to push al-Shabaab out of the capital and create conditions in which the Transitional Federal Government could operate. It initially used a traditional peacekeeping approach: staying encamped, conducting limited patrols, and returning fire only when fired upon.

"This model was quickly abandoned when al-Shabaab began launching attacks on the AMISOM encampments. In 2011, AMISOM began an operation that dislodged al-Shabaab from Mogadishu’s central business district and flushed them out of the country’s main supply routes and regional centers. By 2017, al-Shabaab had been expelled from most of its strongholds in southern Somalia. Along the way, AMISOM troops took significant casualties."

By 2014 al-Shabaab's strength had diminished. Its force levels started to decrease. It was evicted from most towns and cities. However the group still maintained control over large rural areas.

On October 14, 2017 militants detonated a truck bomb in a crowded Mogadishu street near the Safari Hotel in the Hodan District, around one mile from the airport. The bomb killed as many as 587 people. The government blamed the attack on al-Shabaab. This was the most deadly attack in Somalia's history and indicated al-Shabaab was alive and well.

AMISOM began with about 1,600 troops from Uganda, On July 30, 2018 the force was nearly 22,000. In August 2017 the UNSC instructed the security responsibility for Somalia be handed over to Somali forces. In December 2017 AMISOM planned an annual reduction.

However, on July 30, 2018 the UNSC delayed a plan for the AMISOM draw down. Some 1,000 troops had been due to leave in October.

The AU recognized that al-Shabaab continued to pose a significant threat to Somalia and the region. It further recognized that ISIS was operating in northern Puntland which presented further insecurity. Therefore the AU extended AMISOM through May 2019.

In late June 2018, the AU Peace and Security Council
issued a communique. Among other things, the communique said:

"Underscores the imperative of expediting the generation of outstanding force enablers and multipliers, in particular air assets to enhance mobility, resupply, rapid reaction, quick attack combat capability and the implementation of other mandated tasks, as well as the deployment of outstanding Mission Enabling Units and counter-IED capabilities needed to enhance AMISOM’s support and protection in clearing priority Main Supply Routes."

In my opinion, that part of the communique translates to expediting the "generation of US forces…" It appears to me the AU is looking to the US to take on those jobs in 2019.

The European Union (EU) has cut its financial support to AMISOM. The Economist has said the EU was the principle funder for the AMISOM peacekeeping mission Somalia. The EU reportedly contributed about $1 billion between 2015 and 2017. Furthermore, those states who contributed forces to AMISOM are withdrawing them. Sierra Leone withdrew its forces in 2015. Ethiopia has reduced its force levels. Burundi and Uganda are also thinking about leaving. It is expected that all AMISOM forces will have withdrawn by 2020. That seems to be a date uncertain.

If its does withdraw, the open question will be what entity shall replace it? If the Somalia army is good enough, perhaps it will. If not, the AU-UN will either extend AMISOM or some other country will volunteer. The US? Probably not but too early to tell.

Two fallen special forces
The threats presented by Somalia
US policy review
Regional players enter the scene - The birth of AMISOM
AFRICOM: Under the radar
Maritime security - Efforts to secure the waterways
So what is the plan?
Postscript: "The Compound"