Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Somalia: Why is the US in combat?

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

I'm not sure I will ever finish this or get it right!

By Ed Marek, editor

December 17, 2018

"The Compound"

Editor's note: This section is an expedition for me, and adventure. I have never been to Mogadishu, so I have had to search high and low for information about "The Compound." Actually there are multiple compounds in Mogadishu, but I'm only interested in one, or maybe it's two, the one(s) that serve international diplomatic members and military forces such as AMISOM and US forces.

I bumped into the You Tube presentation, "Beyond The Massive Security Wall" which I commend to you. Mebrak Tareke especially got to me. I decided I had to find out about this "Massive Security Wall." I had no idea what I would be getting myself into.

As I said, for me this is an adventure. I will keep working on this section until I feel I have it right. If someone believes I have this wrong, or can expand on what I have assembled, please notify me:

The most difficult for me has been to find out exactly where this compound is. I will share what I have learned from various news outlets and share my analyses as best I can.

Have fun!

"The Compound"

The story of :"The Compound" starts at the Adde Airport serving Mogadishu. Referring to the UK's Daily Mail's report of February 2015:

"When not meeting the Somali government on its own turf, (British Ambassador at the time Neil) Wigan does the rounds of Mogadishu International Airport, Somalia's version of Iraq's Green Zone.

"The four-square kilometre (1.5 square mile) base is a bizarre expatriate ecosystem of muscled and tattooed private security contractors, ambitious young diplomats, jaded aid workers, furtive spies, uniformed soldiers and businessmen with an unusually high risk threshold.

"It is encircled by blast barriers and razor wire and defended by African Union soldiers. It is the safest place in the city, yet on Christmas Day Shabaab gunmen launched a 36-hour assault that left nine AU soldiers and three foreign contractors dead.

"Britain's chunk of the airport is one hectare (2.4 acres) of well-defended beachfront between the runway and the sea."

Please keep this last sentence in mind as we go forward. I will refer back to it later.

James Hopkirk visited Mogadishu in 2013. He presented this photo: "Security at the airport is tight, with blast defences, sandbagged machine gun posts, armoured personnel carriers and hundreds of African Union soldiers and Somali police. This is the safest place in the city – and is also home to the new British Embassy." The British Embassy re-opened in 2013 after being closed in 1991.

Let's start with the direction You Tube video and Ms. Tareke sent me on at the beginning of this expedition, the Halane Compound. I feel more comfortable with this than the other compound I will try to describe thereafter. Everything in this report centers on the Aden Adde Airport serving Mogadishu.

My fundamental issue is this: The compound is either at the southwest end or the northeast end of the airport runway, or there are compounds at both ends.

I wish to underscore I have never been to Somalia.

Halane Compound

Multiple news reports refer to the compound as the "Halane compound." I have to say I have read many reports on this compound and seen multiple photos of what I think are parts of the compound. But the reporting on this place is so circumspect this compound is hard to pin down. The entire topic has intrigued me and I'm going to spend some time on the subject here.

I'll show two maps, the first from Wikipedia, the second from South Sudan News:

Both maps show the Halane Compound at the southwestern end of the Adde Airport serving Mogadishu.

Let's now go to some news reports I have found.

A SomTribune staff writer penned and article, "Mogadishu: AMISOM Barracks Come Under Mortar Attack." The SomTribune published it on July 1, 2018, so it's fresh.

The author wrote:

"The Halane compound extending from the airport runway all the way down to Jazeera, stretching several kilometres, houses facilities that are
used both as homes and offices by the entire international presence in the beleaguered Somalia capital. Hotels and recreation facilities for both nationals and international staff, working at high profile positions are also located within the facilities.

"There is a large presence of the AU troops dotting all along the length of the compound which is responsible for the safety of civilians within the barricaded and wired perimeter walls cordoning off the area from the rest of the city.

"This compound, which is practically off-limits to the incumbent government and regular Somali residents of the capital, has often been called ‘a city within a city’ because of, besides its peculiar layout and nature, the life it contains which has no discernible contact or similarity to the mainstream one beyond the concrete and barbed wires."

The map above shows that. The distance is about 16 km. along the Jazeera (Jaziira) Road. Frankly I am skeptical that the Halane Compound goes 16 kms to the town of Jazeera. Having said that, I believe the area between the city and the town of Jazeera is used for training Somali military forces. I am not certain how much. Sixteen kilometers is almost 10 miles. That's a large area to protect as describe by the

For the moment, I'll concentrate on the urban area of Halane.

You are looking mainly at Halane, located at the southwest end of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport.

This is another look at the Halane Compound, taken from a Google Earth map said to be a 2018 shot. Google Earth has placed the UN Somalia (UNSOM) and UN Development Program (UNDP) offices inside this compound. It shows something known as the International Campus in the Halane Compound as well.

It is my understanding several embassies are in this compound. I have seen hints the US embassy will be located there as well, in a building already selected, but I have not been able to confirm.

On June 19, 2013 al-Shabaab attacked the Halane compound, killing 15, wounding another 20, perhaps 22. Reuters said "an ambulance service official said his crew carried away seven dead civilians," which would make the total 22. Reuters also said "The South African state weapons firm Denel said two of its staff were killed in the raid." Most other reports say four UNDP foreign security people, four Somali guards, and seven terrorists were killed killed, totaling 20.

There was an explosion the gate shown in the photo, called by one news outlet "the front gate which lies on the main road from Mogadishu airport," which I have interpreted to mean Jazeera Road. This photo appears to have been taken shortly after the explosion. Security people are outside deciding what to do., Apparently two suicide bombers detonated their bombs at the "front gate" followed by three to four al-Shabaab gunmen who stormed through the gate. Fighting lasted about two hours.

There have been many more attacks, some employing mortars.

These are two more photos of what I believe to be part of the Halane compound. Somalis whose interviews I have read see this compound as "occupied territory." People who work and live in the pound feel much the same, but they acknowledge the importance of safety. One UN worker said "It feels like a no man's land … I’m sure it is really far more vibrant than where we are staying, which feels more like a prison in a way … I don’t like the idea of setting myself apart from the rest of the local community (because that) breaks trust.”

Somalis living outside the compound do not have such protection. A student at Jobeky University in Mogadishu said, "Those people in Halane are afraid of us and we are also afraid of them … This is because they cannot interact with the community and we know nothing about them … They know us as Somalis, but we don’t know what they are."

There is a good You Tube presentation, "
Beyond The Massive Security Wall" which I commend to you.

This occurred at a time when the UN was relocating people from Nairobi to Mogadishu. It was the first attack one the compound since the relocation began. Some buildings in the area were affected by the explosions.

Giles Clark of Getty Images for UNOCHA, in his report, "Journey through Somalia: from prison to cholera treatment center," took a turboprop flight in March 2017 about 300 km inland from Mogadishu. On his way out, he took this photo and said it was the UN compound in Mogadishu.

All of this strikes me as fairly firm information. But let me pass on why I have been confused about location. I'll refer you back to
SomTribune article, "Mogadishu: AMISOM Barracks Come Under Mortar Attack."

The SomTribune presented this as a photo of the compound. The Tribune said:

"The Halane compound extending from the airport runway all the way down to Jazeera, stretching several kilometres, houses facilities that are used both as homes and offices by the entire international presence in the beleaguered Somalia capital. Hotels and recreation facilities for both nationals and international staff, working at high profile positions are also located within the facilities."

Tribune report was dated in 2018. I concluded as a result, and perhaps I should not have, that this photo the paper presented was of the Halane Compound.

It clearly is not the Halane Compound as I have shown thus far, shown again as a reminder. This compound is at the southwest end of the airport's runway. So I then looked around Google Earth and went to the northeast end of the runway.

This is the scene at the northeastern end of the runway. Th red marker left center pinpoints the terminal. In my opinion, it corresponds quite closely with the photo presented by the SomTribune. Furthermore, again in my opinion, it looks more like a military secure compound in large part because there is easy and rapid access to the runway and the Gulf of Aden. There is also a paved area to park aircraft in the upper right corner.

I dialed up Google Earth to show me the most recent photo of this end of the runway. You can see plainly there is an aircraft parking area and a white aircraft sitting there. Also note the hangar center right. The aircraft is a propeller driven one, two engines, and a high horizontal stabilizer to the rear. I think this is a UN Bombadier Dash 8 aircraft. IN going through Google Earth images of this area, the hangar was there but the parking ramp was not in September 2014. None of it is there in 2012.

The disparity absolutely overtook me. I dare not tell you how many hours, no, days I spent trying to come to some sort of credible conclusion on all this. My conclusion is both areas are UN and AMISOM areas, and both are used by all kinds of international organizations. Here are some descriptions I have read:

Amanda Sperber, writing "U.S. Returns to Mogadishu With Revamped Diplomatic Outpost, 25 Years After 'Black Hawk Down' Battle" for The Intercept, a news organization, reported on November 16, 2018 that (US Ambassador) Yamamoto is based in Kenya and came to Mogadishu that week to "formally inaugurate" a facility that will "apparently serve as an unofficial US embassy or consulate in Mogadishu … The facility will allow for a permanent diplomatic presence in the country … US officials are reluctant to discuss the building and its intended uses; the government seems keen to indicate it is neither an embassy or a consular office."

Sperber went on to say:

"The US building is located in Mogdishu's equivalent of what is known as the 'Green Zone' in Baghdad … At the moment, the vast majority of foreigners who come to the Somali capital do not even leave the massive airport complex-cum-militrary vase that stretches across a section of Mogadishu shoreline. The compound, secured by blast walls, is protected by the African Union Mission in Somalia and is entirely segregated from the rest of the city."

Sahan Journal, an independent news website that covers the Horn of Africa, published "This massive security wall built by the UN divides Mogadishu in two" on March 22, 2015. The report said the "heavily secured compound is home to UN workers, international diplomats and the African Union forces ion Somalia known as AMISOM." There are also residences within. I commend this article to you as it explains how it feels to be in this compound.

Jeremy Scahill, writing "The CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia" published by The Nation on December 10, 2014, wrote:

2018 Google Earth image

"Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. Adjacent to the compound are eight large metal hangars, and the CIA has its own aircraft at the airport. The site, which airport officials and Somali intelligence sources say was completed four months ago (circa September 2014), is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

"The CIA presence in Mogadishu is part of Washington’s intensifying counterterrorism focus on Somalia, which includes targeted strikes by US Special Operations forces, drone attacks and expanded surveillance operations."

I now need to beat this dead horse to death and show you some more photos relevant to this topic.

Perhaps you are familiar with "Strava." Strava is a social fitness network primarily used to track cycling, and running using GPS data, although alternative types are available. It has been controversial. Strava released heatmaps or data visualizations of its user's activities in late 2017. In 2018 an Australian university student discovered Strava could map military personnel activities and highlight known US and other national military bases.

This particular image seems to show heavy jogging in both areas I have highlighted, the southwest and northeast ends of the runway. That would lend credence to my conclusion that both sides are used by the UN, US and others. Apparently this was shown to someone in the US Department of Defense and the response was "no comment."

This is a closer look at the northeast end of the runway facilities. You can see a considerable number of tracks, which again seems to support my conclusion.

SKA is a UAE-based company involved in the hospitality business. It has operated in Somalia for 10 years. This is a photo of SKA accommodations from single guests to groups of 60 people for as long as required in Mogadishu.

Bancroft Global Development opened a property in 2013 called the "International Campus." Recall I pointed that out on an image of the Halane area. The company says it has several facilities including the Mogadishu International Campus, which houses government officials, NGO representatives, and other members of the international community.

Finally, I'll show you Chelsea Village. The company said Chelsea Village is located in the heart of the Mogadishu International Airport zone (MIA), two minutes from the airport and a few minutes’ drive from the UN, the UK embassy and other missions. It can host up to 184 guests. It was created in 2015.

You may wish to visit each of those web sites to get the full idea of what these companies are doing in the so called Mogadishu Green Zone. I must say I was surprised. Sure beats what I lived in during the Indochina War!

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"