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Overview of Somali Security Forces -Heritage institute report

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    Overview of Somali Security Forces -Heritage institute report

    Sunatimes.com - Structural Impediments To Reviving Somalia's Security Forces. For over a decade, successive Somali governments and the international community have been earnestly trying to revive Somalia's security forces (SSF)1 as part

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Sunatimes.com - Structural Impediments To Reviving Somalia's Security Forces. For over a decade, successive Somali governments and the international community have been earnestly trying to revive Somalia's security forces (SSF)1 as part of a broader effort to stabilize the country following the collapse of the state in 1991. Billions of dollars were spent on training and equipping tens of thousands of military, police, and intelligence personnel so that they could stabilize their country and liberate from the grip of the militant group al-Shabaab and enforce the rule of law. Nearly 15 years later, neither of the two objectives is fully realized, and the country's security forces remain perpetually weak, deeply fractured, and increasingly politicized.
Executive summary
For over a decade, successive Somali governments and the international community
have been earnestly trying to revive Somalia’s security forces (SSF)1
 as part of a broader
efort to stabilize the country following the collapse of the state in 1991. Billions of
dollars were spent on training and equipping tens of thousands of military, police and
intelligence personnel so that they could stabilize their country and liberate from the
grip of the militant group al-Shabaab and enforce the rule of law. Nearly 15 years later,
neither of the two objectives is fully realized, and the country’s security forces remain
perpetually weak, deeply fractured and increasingly politicized.
Somali security forces were originally slated to take over core security responsibility
from the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by the end of
2021. However, according to an elaborate stabilization plan, crafed by the Federal
Government of Somalia (FGS), the goalpost is now moved to 2023. Te "able,
accountable, afordable and acceptable” security force that was envisioned by the London
Security Pact of 2017 is not in sight. Instead, the nation’s security forces are still reliant
on external assistance for fnancing, training, equipment and operational capability.
Central to this profound is a convergence of factors, notably political irreconcilability
among Somalia’s cantankerous political elite who has failed, quite spectacularly, to fnd
a common ground on the outstanding statebuilding issues such as the architecture of
the security forces. Politicization of the security forces is rampant and leaders of the
FGS and federal member states (FMS) tend to prioritize regime security over national
security. Instead of fghting al-Shabaab and enforcing the rule of law, some or many
of the country’s disparate security forces are subjected enforcing the law of the ruling
elite, deepening the mistrust that many Somalis and international partners harbor about
Somali security forces.
Corrosive misgovernance is also besetting the security sector. Although commendable
progress had been made over the past few years in the fght against corruption through
the purging of ‘ghost soldiers’ and the introduction of biometric registration and
electronic salary payments, the underlying corruptive cultures remain entrenched.
Ofcers are promoted through nepotism and clan afliation to buy of loyalties and
consolidate power, destroying the morale of the security forces. High turnover of the
top brass is also destabilizing the security forces and weakening command and control,
resulting in poor accountability.
1.
1 Somali security services refers to all the government’s armed personnel including military, policy and intelligence.
5 Heritage Institute
Persistent fnancial crisis is another major impediment limiting the security sector’s
ability to recruit, train and equip ofcers. Together with high attrition rates, the FGS
is struggling to generate adequate forces to achieve its goal of "clearing, holding and
rebuilding” communities. By and large, the security sector is heavily reliant on few,
highly trained special forces, notably the US-trained Danab Brigade and the Turkishtrained Gorgor and Haram’ad units. By one estimate, Danab leads 80 percent of all
operations and 100 percent of counterterrorism operations.
With the anticipated drawdown of AMISOM forces in the coming years, and the
geopolitical rivalry among external actors, the years ahead could be defning for
Somalia’s fedgling security forces. Perhaps one silver lining is that al-Shabaab no
longer poses an existential threat to the FGS, although it remains a deeply disruptive
and potent force across the country. It has proven to be adept and agile under intense
US air strikes and ground operations. Relying on a sophisticated underground
network, the militant group has morphed into a criminal-like syndicate and is
collecting as much revenue as the FGS from Mogadishu, Bossaso and other major
cities.
Methodology
Drawing primarily on qualitative approach, Tis report is based on semi-structured
interviews with current and former senior Somali government ofcials who have
an insider’s understanding of the Somali security sector. Tey include three former
defense ministers, two former internal security ministers, two former National
Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) directors, and senior ofcials in three
diferent FGS ministries responsible for security and stabilization. Tese ofcials
represent diferent generations and viewpoints. Te interviews and follow-up
questions provided unique perspectives that form the basis of this report. We have also
reviewed fve documents ranging from security plans to joint assessments prepared
by the FGS, UN and AMISOM. Moreover, we reviewed and analyzed independent
assessments on the security sector made by Somalia’s closet allies. Finally, an extensive
literature review was also conducted as a critical part of drafing of this report.
2.
6 Heritage Institute
2 See "Somalia Security and Justice Public Expenditure Review” (SJPER). (2017). World Bank, page 28, Accessed at:
https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/26030?show=full
3 In addition to SNA, SPF & NISA, there are other smaller branches such as the custodial corps, marine forces and
air force. However, only the military, police and intelligence services are engaged in fghting al-Shabaab and are the
focus of this report
Introduction
Te key fnding of this report is that the revival of an "able, accountable, afordable and
acceptable” Somali security forces, as envisioned by the National Security Architecture
endorsed in 2017, is hampered by fve mutually reinforcing structural impediments. Te
frst and most acute factor is irreconcilability among the country’s political leaders at the
federal and state levels. At both levels, security forces are routinely oriented to suppress
political dissent, allowing extremist groups to not only survive, but thrive. Te second
factor is a deeply corrosive misgovernance in the form of nepotism and weak command
and control. Te third factor is inadequate fnancing, which is inhibiting the Somali
security forces’ overall capability to expand and sustain. Te fourth is the continued
potency of al-Shabaab and its ability to disrupt peace and stability. Te ffh is the role
of external actors whose divergent agendas are pulling the security forces into opposite
directions. Taken together, these factors represent a profound structural impediment to
reviving capable Somali security forces in the near future.
Overview of Somali Security Forces
Somalia spends more on its security sector as a percentage of the budget than any other
fragile country in the world except Afghanistan, according to a 2017 review by the World
Bank.2 Te country has three main security institutions under the command of the FGS.3
3.
4.
Somalia spends
more on its
security sector
as a percentage
of the budget
than any other
fragile country in
the world except
Afghanistan
7 Heritage Institute
Te largest and the most important is the military, known as Somali National Army
(SNA). Over the past 15 years, it is estimated that more than 100,000 soldiers have been
trained and equipped by multiple countries.4
 Yet the precise number of SNA soldiers
is unclear. One senior FGS ofcial said that there are 28,000 military personnel on the
payroll of the Ministry of Defense (MoD).5
 However, another senior FGS ofcial, who
is closer to the MoD, put the SNA strength at 24,000 personnel.6
 As part of the National
Security Architecture (NSA) agreed during the London Conference on Somalia in
May 2017, the FGS and federal member states agreed to form an 18,000-strong SNA,
with each of the fve states contributing 3,000 soldiers. Special forces, the air force and
navy were excluded from this fgure.7
 Te idea was to reconstitute a small, agile and
inclusive national army that could degrade and ultimately defeat al-Shabaab. Like many
agreements in Somalia, the NSA was never implemented due to the political imbroglio
between the FGS and the FMS.8
Te second largest institution is the Somali Police Force (SPF). Like the SNA, its force
strength is imprecise. AMISOM has trained nearly 5,000 police ofcers from 2009
to 2015.9
 However, one FGS ofcial said 11,000 police ofcers are on the payroll of
the Ministry of Internal Security (MoIS). Te vast majority of these ofcers work in
Mogadishu and its environs as each FMS has its own local police force. Te security pact
in London called for the establishment of 32,000 police ofcers which were supposed
to be divided between federal and state police.10 Under the leadership of the UK, the
penholder of the Somalia fle at the UN Security Council, international partners pushed
for this fgure on the assertion that stabilizing recently liberated towns was a greater
priority for Somalia than defending its porous borders from external enemies.11
Te smallest of the three main Somali forces is NISA, an opaque spy agency "engaged
with various elements of security, including both policing and militarized operations”.12
4 Interview with senior FGS ofcial. (December 2020).
5 Ibid.
6 Interview with senior FGS defense ofcial. (December 2020).
7 See "London Conference on Somalia: Security Pact”. (2017), page 5, Accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/
london-somalia-conference-2017-security-pact
8 See "2019 State of Somalia Report”. (2019). Heritage Institute, page. 11, Accessed at: http://www.heritageinstitute.org/the-stateof-somalia-sos-report/
9 See SJPER World Bank report, ibid, page 40.
10 See London Security Pact, ibid.
11 Many Somali politicians, including MPs, have decried the London Security Pact as a concoction of neighboring countries who
were determined to keep Somalia weak and divided.
12 See SJPER report by the World Bank, ibid, page 41.
8 Heritage Institute
Its reported force strength is about 4,500 and typically receives about fve percent of
the total budget of the FGS—a disproportionately high fgure in comparison to other
forces.13 Unlike the other two, NISA’s legal status is questionable. Established by the
military dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre in a presidential decree and widely used to
intimidate opponents, the agency lacks the establishment act that is necessary to
function as a legal entity in post-war Somalia.14 Political leaders exploit this legal limbo
and regularly use NISA to quash opponents, as it is difcult to litigate the agency in
statutory courts.15 In December 2017, NISA agents raided the Mogadishu house of
opposition leader, Abdirahman Abdishakur, and killed fve of his security guards. Tey
also injured him and took him to custody on the allegation of treason, although the
charges were later dropped.16 A former NISA director said "Somali presidents view
NISA as an extension of Villa Somalia and a blunt instrument to cudgel opponents into
order.”17 Te last several directors of NISA are known to be political operatives more
than security experts, and are ofen close allies of the sitting president.18
Somalia’s security forces have a long and checkered history of prioritizing regime
security over national security and ignoring the rule of law in favor of what critics
call "law of the ruling”.19 Most experts postulate that, following Somalia’s defeat in the
1977 war with Ethiopia and the subsequent coup attempt in 1978, General Siyad Barre
consolidated power by empowering his loyalists in the security services to protect
his regime. Colin Robinson, a leading historian, observed "the ethnic favoritism and
manipulation of the senior ranks, over time, destroyed the military’s reputation as a
national institution.”20 He added that, 20 years later, the same clannism is bedeviling its
revival.21
Elite irreconcilability
For security sector reform (SSR) to succeed in post confict societies, scholars assume
"the existence of an agreement between belligerent parties that the international
community supports, and a process that will lead to the state’s monopoly of coercion
or reforms that lead to the state’s all-but guaranteed monopoly of coercion.”22 In
Somalia, state building initiatives are essentially beholden to the revival of national
security forces acceptable to all stakeholders. Key outstanding issues include genuine
political reconciliation, fxing the dysfunctional federalism23 and power and resource
sharing.
13 Ibid.
14 Interview with former NISA director. (December 2020).
15 Ibid.
16 See, for example, "Former PM apologizes over NISA attack in opposition leader’s house”. Garowe Online (2020). Accessed at: https://www.
garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/former-pm-apologizes-over-nisa-attack-in- opposition-leaders-house
17 Interview with former NISA director. (December 2020).
18 Current NISA Director, Fahad Yasin, who’s a former journalist, is president Farmaajo’s closest ally. Former directors include Abdullahi
Sanbalooshe, Gen. Abdullahi Gafow, Gen. Abdirahman Tuuryare and Ahmed Fiqi. All of them are prominent politicians today.
19 Interview with former Somali defense minister 1 (December 2020).
20 Robinson, C. "Revisiting the rise and the fall of the Somali armed forces”. (2016). Defense and Security Analysis. 32:3, page 241.
21 Ibid, page 243.
22 Beyene, A. "Te Security Sector Reform Paradox in Somalia.” LSE. (2020), page 4, Accessed at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/103683/1/Dribssa_Beyene_
security_sector_reform_paradox_somalia_published.pdf
23 For a detailed treatment on this, see "Dysfunctional Federalism: How Political Division, Constitutional Ambiguity and Unitary Mindset Twart
Equitable Distribution of Power in Somalia.” Heritage Institute. (2020). Accessed at: http://www.heritageinstitute.org/dysfunctional-federalism-howpolitical-division-constitutional-ambiguity-and-a-unitary-mindset-thwart-equitable-distribution-of-power-in-somalia/
5.
Somalia’s security
forces have a long
and checkered
history of
prioritizing regime
security over
national security
and ignoring the
rule of law in favor
of what critics call
"law of the ruling
ethnic favoritism
and manipulation
of the senior
ranks, over time,
destroyed the
military’s reputation
as a national
institution
9 Heritage Institute
"Genuine reconciliation is a precondition to an inclusive agreement on the rebuilding
of efective and inclusive security services,” said former security minister Abdirizak
Omar.24
A recent assessment on the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Somalia
noted that lack of political reconciliation is hampering the building of professional
security services.25 Virtually all local actors are deeply nervous about a powerful
security service, similar to that of the military dictatorship, which can be used by one
group or one clan to subjugate others. Te mistrust is so deep that a review by the
World Bank discovered that "stakeholders are reluctant to ‘give up’ their means of
‘armed protection’ while the political settlement remains fragile.”26 And a 2019 joint
threat assessment (JTA) conducted by the FGS, AMISOM and the UN found that
"protracted political stalemate” between the FGS and FMS is hampering the rebuilding
of national security forces.27
Te most important manifestation of elite irreconcilability is the lack of permanent
settlement on the outstanding issues in the provisional constitution. Tere are at
least 15 articles that remain deeply contested and require elite compact.28 "Tere
is no clarity on how security responsibility is shared and divided between the FGS
and FMS,” said a former NISA director.29 Te 2017 London Security Pact outlined
an interim framework for the FGS and FMS to collaborate on security forces.
Among other things, it envisioned a National Security Council (NSC) comprising
of presidents of FGS and FMS and including key federal ministries. As a policy and
strategy organ, the NSC was designed to provide guidance30 to regional security ofces
(RSOs) that were formed to implement the National Security Architecture (NSA).31
Civil servants have been hired for the RSOs at FMS levels to support the Somali
Transitional Plan (STP), which called for systemic integration of FGS and FMS forces
so that Somalia could take over its security responsibilities from AMISOM by end of
2021.32
However, experts believe that "moving forward with integration is inextricably linked
to the overall federal state building project. Progress will remain superfcial unless
confdence is actively built in the broader federalization process.”33 Since the London
Security Pact, the relationship between the FGS and most FMS was animated by a
deep political upheaval, which made it harder for the two sides to work together.
24 Interview with former security minister Abdirizak Omar (December 2020).
25 Williams, P. and Ali, H "Te European Union training mission in Somalia: An assessment”. (2020). SIPRI, page 14, Accessed at:
https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-background-papers/european-union-training-mission-somalia-assessment.
26 See "Somalia Security and Justice Public Expenditure Review” (SJPER). (2017). World Bank, page 28. Accessed at: https://
openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/26030?show=full
27 "Joint Treat Assessment” (JTA) report confdentially shared with HIPS. (2019). FGS/AMISOM/UN, page 5,
28 Ibid, page 2.
29 Interview with former NISA director, ibid.
30 One of the key responsibilities of the NSC was to agree on the appointment of commanders and the location of army bases
across the country, which was to be reconfgured based on the federal structure.
31 See London Security Pact, ibid.
32 JTA, page 7. Ibid.
33 Keating, M. and Abshir, S. "Te Politics of Security in Somalia”. Center on International Cooperation. (2018), page 7, Accessed
at: https://cic.nyu.edu/sites/default/fles/politics_of_security_in_somalia_2018_fnal_0.pdf
The most important
manifestation of
elite irreconcilability
is the lack of
permanent
settlement on the
outstanding issues
in the provisional
constitution
10 Heritage Institute
34 See "Lead Inspector General Report to the US Congress on East Africa and North and West Africa.” (2020), page
25, Accessed at: https://www.dodig.mil/Reports/Lead-Inspector-General-Reports/Article/2427451/lead-inspector-general-for-east-africa-and-north-and-west-africa-counterterrori/
35 Interview with former Somali defense minister 1. (December 2020).
36 Interview with former Somali defense minister 2. (2020).
37 See Hassan, A., "Leader of Somalia’s Jubbaland, at Odds with Mogadishu, Wins New Term.” Reuters. (2020).
Accessed at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-politics/president-of-somali-state-of-jubbaland-re-elected-in-divisive-vote-idUSKCN1VC15B?il=0
38 See "Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefng on the Situation in Somalia.” (2020). Accessed at: https://usun.
usmission.gov/remarks-at-a-un-security-council-briefng-on-the-situation-in-somalia-5/
A report by the inspector general of the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) found
that "the Somali government has consistently failed to collaborate with the federal
member states on security, a key part of its commitments in the 2017 Security Pact.”34
Social reconciliation is also a central part of why many Somalis are deeply reluctant
to see powerful security forces controlled by politicians in Mogadishu. For many, this
"harkens back to the painful memories of the military dictatorship which used the
security services to oppress opponents,” said a former Somali defense minister.35 Another
former defense minister observed that "there’s a deep trust defcit among the Somali
people, and there’s a need to rebuild that trust especially with the peripheries in order to
build an inclusive and unifed security forces.”36
5.1 Gedo and Hiiraan conficts
To illustrate the reason why mistrust runs so deep among the Somali people when it
comes to powerful security services, many current and former ofcials interviewed
for this report cited the ongoing conficts in Gedo (Jubbaland), which has been
intensifying since late 2019 and Hiiraan (Hirshabeelle), which sparked a new wave
of confict in November 2020. Although the dynamics of the two localized conficts
are fundamentally diferent, the intervention of FGS forces in each context provides
a clear picture as to why politicization of the security forces remains a major
impediment to reviving a truly national security force.
In the Gedo case, the FGS deployed hundreds of Turkish-trained SNA units belonging
to the Gorgor (military) and Haram’ad (police) units to the region following a 2019
disputed local election where the incumbent president, Ahmed Madoobe, orchestrated
a highly contested reelection.37 A battalion of armed forces was sent to Gedo to
dislodge the local administration, which was loyal to president Madoobe, and replace
it with one that is loyal to the FGS president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. Te
mission was the frst in Somalia that led to the dismemberment of a federal member
state by the FGS. Te deployment of the FGS force to Gedo was sharply criticized by
international partners, such as the US: "Te deployment of FGS forces to a politically
motivated confict in Gedo is unacceptable,” said Rodney Hunter, the political
coordinator of the US mission to the UN during a Security Council meeting.38 It was
a rare public rebuke of the FGS by one of its key allies and a refection of the growing
international frustration with the politicization of the security forces.
The Somali
government has
consistently failed
to collaborate
with the federal
member states on
security, a key part
of its commitments
in the 2017
Security Pact
11 Heritage Institute
Another layer of the Gedo crisis is the highly combustible clan confict between two
dominant communities, the Ogaden and Marehan. FGS president Farmaajo belongs
to the latter and Madoobe to the former. "Te frictions in Gedo refect political fault
lines that cut from national politics down to local clan tensions and constitute a
major source of instability for Somalia,” noted the International Crisis Group (ICG).39
As it turned out, the confict in Gedo became a major fashpoint in the federal
parliamentary and presidential elections that were scheduled for late 2020 and early
2021.40
39 See "Ending the Dangerous Standof in Southern Somalia.” ICG Briefng Note 158. (2020). Accessed at: https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b158-standof-in-southern-somalia.pdf
40 Mussa, Y. "State of Somalia: Electoral Impasse and Growing Insecurity.” ACCORD. (2021). Accessed at: https://www.accord.
org.za/analysis/the-state-of-somalia-electoral-impasse-and-growing-insecurity/
41 See, for example, "Somalia: Arrest of Jubbaland Security Minister Must Yield Justice for Victims.” (2019). Amnesty International. Accessed at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/somalia-arrest-of-jubaland-security-minister-must-yield-justice-for-victims/
42 See "High-Profle Jailbreak Undermines Somalia’s Fight for Justice.” (2020). Human Rights Watch. Accessed at: https://www.
hrw.org/news/2020/03/24/high-profle-jailbreak-undermines-somalias-fght-justice
43 See "Somalia Says 11 Killed, 100 Arrested in Fierce Clashes Near Border Town.” (2021). Xinhua. Accessed at: http://www.
xinhuanet.com/english/africa/2021-01/26/c_139697059.htm
44 Dhaysane, M. "Somalia: Wanted Fugitive Minister Surrenders.” (2021). Anadolu. Accessed at: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/
somalia-wanted-fugitive-minister-surrenders/2187196
45 See "Somalia Drops All Cases Against Ex-Minister Accused of Serious Crimes.” (2021). Garowe Online. Accessed at: https://
www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somali-govt-drops-all-cases-against-ex-minister-accused-of-serious-crimes
The Curious Case of Abdirashid Janan
A central fgure in the Gedo confict is the former security minister of Jubbaland State, Abdirashid
Hassan Abdinur commonly known as Abdirashid Janan. For many years, he was a key player
and a strongman in several border towns in Gedo and has had cooperated with both Ethiopia
and Kenya. Afer joining the Kismaayo-based Jubbaland administration, president Madoobe
outsourced the security of Gedo province to him given his deep ties to the area. Following the
2019 disputed presidential election in Jubbaland, Janan was arrested by the FGS in Mogadishu in
September 2019 and was charged with committing serious human rights abuses. His high-profle
capture was welcomed by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch.41
In January 2020, Janan escaped from FGS prison in Mogadishu, embarrassing the Farmaajo
administration.42 As soon as he emerged in the Kenya-Somalia border, tensions have risen again in
the Gedo region. A year afer his daring escape, the FGS alleged that Janan’s Kenya-backed forces,
who were aligned with Jubbaland, have attacked government forces in the border town of Beled
Hawo, resulting in high casualties.43
Two months later—in March 2021—the FGS announced that Janan ‘surrendered’ to the
government and defected from Jubbaland.44 In early 2021, the federal attorney general dropped all
charges against Janan.45 Tis dramatic reversal of fortunes for Janan is illustrative of the volatility
and politicization of Somalia’s security systems. Within a few weeks, Janan moved from a fugitive
of the law to an ally of the FGS in the confict in Gedo. 
12 Heritage Institute
Te Hiiraan crisis, on the other hand, was sparked by the presidential election of
Hirshabeelle state in November 2020. A former vice president, Ali Guudlaawe, was
elected president in a contest widely considered to have been tipped in his favor by
the FGS. He received 86 out of the 99 votes of the state legislature.46 Te thrust of the
confict is about power-sharing among the two dominant clans in the state, Abgaal,
to which Guudlaawe belongs, and Hawadle, to which the former president belongs.
During the formation of the state in 2016, a gentleman’s agreement between the two
clans gave one the capital city (Jowhar) and the other the presidency. Te Hawadle feel
that their cousins, the Abgaal, violated that pact and grabbed both privileges without
due consideration. Tat is why many of their political elite are supporting what
they consider to be a legitimate uprising in their bastion of Hiiraan, with a declared
objective of ultimately seceding from the state.47
So far, the FGS has dispatched senior ofcials, including the current interior minister,
to Beledweyn, the epicenter of the uprising, in order to calm the situation. But unlike
Gedo, the FGS is supporting the state president Guudlaawe against what it believes
to be a rebellious movement.48 Tis confict in Hiiraan "exposes the hypocrisy of the
FGS: in Jubbaland, it is actively dismantling the state using national armed forces for
purely political reasons, while it is buttressing Hirshabeelle state to achieve short-term
electoral objectives,” said a former defense minister.49
5.2 Role of FGS security services in state elections
Over the past few years, the FGS has deployed hundreds of security forces to all federal
member states except Puntland during local elections. In Southwest, Galmudug and
Hirshabeelle, the FGS installed its allies as regional presidents by deploying security
forces trained and equipped by partners to fght al-Shabaab, stabilize the country and
enforce the rule of law.50 In all three cases, FGS forces have intimidated politicians
deemed unaligned with the government. In some cases, AMISOM forces have helped
the FGS in installing its handpicked candidate.51 Jubbaland is the only state where the
FGS deployed forces to infuence a local election and ultimately failed. Tat is entirely
due to the strong backing of Kenya for the incumbent, president Madoobe, who has
deep clan ties to Kenyan-Somali politicians.52
46 See, for example, "Villa Somalia ‘Candidate’ Wins Hirshabelle Election”. Garowe Online. (2020). Accessed at:
https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/villa-somalia-candidates-win-in-hirshabelle-election
47 Both former education minister, Abdullahi Godah and former NISA Director Abdullahi Sanbalooshe, have
publicly supported the uprising in Hiiraan and accuse the FGS of using the SNA to suppress legitimate grievances.
48 Interview with a senior FGS ofcial, ibid.
49 Interview with former defense minister 2, ibid.
50 For a detailed treatment of these interventions, see, for example, "Te 2019 State of Somalia Report”. Ibid.
51 Sheikh, A. and Omar, F. "Mogadishu-Backed Candidate Wins Test-Case Regional Election.” Reuters. (2018).
Accessed at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-politics-idUSKBN1OI1QX
52 See, for example, "Ending the Dangerous Standof…”, ICG, ibid.
This confict in
Hiiraan "exposes
the hypocrisy of the
FGS: in Jubbaland,
it is actively
dismantling the
state using national
armed forces for
purely political
reasons, while
it is buttressing
Hirshabeelle
state to achieve
short-term electoral
objectives
13 Heritage Institute
Tese actions "have unfortunately deepened the belief among the Somali people that
our security forces are blunt instruments for the occupant of Villa Somalia,” said a
former senior FGS ofcial.53 Some federal member states and many opposition fgures
publicly equate the security forces to militias loyal to president Farmaajo as opposed
to national forces. Tis has the efect of discrediting all security services, exasperating
social cleavages and further rupturing the tenuous elite compact.54
Corrosive misgovernance
One of the most profound challenges bedeviling Somalia’s security forces is
misgovernance by their political leaders. From frequent changes of the top commanders
for personal or partisan reasons, to corruption and the failure to institutionalize and
professionalize the various security forces, successive governments have failed to meet
their own targets. As Professor Paul D. Williams has aptly observed, Somalia lacks "the
basic building blocks of a national security architecture, let alone policy or operational
frameworks into which to plug the various international [assistance] programs.”55
For what it’s worth, there are no shortage of constitutional guidelines and impressive
strategic plans. Article 127 of the provisional constitution is unequivocal in calling for
the neutrality of the security forces and their obligation to uphold the constitution and
enforce the rule of law.56 In the past few years, the FGS has developed good plans such
as the National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Somali Transitional Plan (STP), both
of which aim to build "an able, afordable, accountable and acceptable” security force..57
Te STP set the end of 2023 as a deadline for Somalia to take over security responsibility
from AMISOM. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a realistic target anymore. As
the inspector general of the Pentagon noted in his seminal report to US Congress, the
implementation of the STP is "badly of track”.58
A few months ago, the FGS shared a revised STP with the international partners
at the behest of the UN Security Council. Partners have nudged the government
to set achievable targets in the new plan. But the United States African Command
(AFRICOM), which oversees the estimated 700 US troops in Somalia, described the
revised STP as "overly ambitious” and "a solid draf as opposed to an actionable plan”.59
International partners have urged the FGS to revise it and make it "realistic” and in line
with the government’s capabilities.60
53 Interview with former FGS ofcial. (2020).
54 For detailed treatment on this, see "Elite Bargains and Political Deals Project: Somalia Case Study” by Prof. Ken
Menkhaus. UK Stabilization Unit. (2018). Accessed at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fle/766049/Somalia_case_study.pdf
55 Williams, P. "Building the Somali National Army: Te Anatomy of Failure: 2008-2018”. (2020) Journal of Strategic Studies. 43:3, page 378.
56 See article 127 of the Provisional Constitution of Somalia.
57 Draf of the revised Somali Transitional Plan, confdentially received by HIPS. (202). Page 10.
58 See "Inspector General…” ibid, page 19.
59 Ibid, page 20.
60 Ibid.
6.
Somalia lacks
"the basic building
blocks of a
national security
architecture,
let alone policy
or operational
frameworks
As the inspector
general of the
Pentagon noted in
his seminal report
to US Congress,
the implementation
of the STP is
"badly off track”
14 Heritage Institute
6.1 Nepotism
Political leaders in Somalia ofen view the security force’s raison d’être as protecting
the regime at all costs. Almost everyone interviewed for this report acknowledged
that nepotism is wreaking havoc among the rank and fle. A review of the EU training
mission found that "the mission has faced problems from some Somalis who want
to promote their own clan at the expense of others.”61 A former security minister
observed that "nepotism is widespread, especially on promotion of ofcers who are
rewarded for their loyalty and not for their performance.”62 Tis creates a domino
efect where almost all ofcers exert tremendous pressure on their clansmen in high
ofces for promotions, according to one FGS ofcial. "Young ofcers spend a great
deal of their time lobbying politicians to receive a higher rank, and with every change
of a commander, a minister, a prime minister or president, a new crop of ofcers are
promoted to create a clan equilibrium—a truly vicious cycle,” he said.63
Te FGS is trying to fx this problem. In 2020, the council of ministers approved a
new merit-based policy to regulate wanton promotions within the security forces,
according to a senior FGS ofcial. Tis ofcial added that, "if implemented, the
[policy] will ensure fair appointment and promotion of ofcers.”64 Veteran military
ofcials acknowledge that nepotism is not only chronic but devastating to the morale
of the security forces. General Abdulqadir Diini, a former defense minister and
onetime chief of defense forces, lamented on what he called "systemic dismantling
of the SNA” by political leaders with very short objectives. "You can never rebuild an
army through clan nepotism,” he said.65
As the country enters an electoral season, experts worry that promotions of ofcers
will spike as political leaders try to win votes. "Election season is also a promotions
season,” said a former defense minister who said that a former president routinely
promoted ofcers without merit. Te EU training mission also noted that "frequent
turnover of senior SNA ofcers” impacted the coherence of the plans submitted to
them.66 Other international partners are keenly aware of this phenomenon. Te US
Embassy in Mogadishu noted that "electioneering has soaked up political bandwidth,
and progress on security sector reforms is now likely to slow and even be reversed in
the coming year.”67
61 See "Te European Union training mission in Somalia…” ibid, page 14.
62 Interview with former security minister Abdirizak Omar, ibid.
63 Interview with senior FGS ofcial, ibid.
64 Interview with senior FGS defense ofcial, ibid.
65 Interview with Gen. Abdulqadir Dini, former defense minister.
66 See "Te European Union training mission in Somalia…” ibid, page 14.
67 See "Inspect General”, ibid, page 25.
The EU training
mission found that
"the mission has
faced problems
from some
Somalis who want
to promote their
own clan at the
expense of others
15 Heritage Institute
6.2 Improving transparency
When the US government suspended funding to the SNA in December 2017 due
to systemic corruption,68 the FGS began a highly regarded reform efort aimed at
winning back American support. Tangible steps were taken to purge the notorious
"ghost soldiers” from the rolls of the SNA through a biometric registration system,
which was completed in March 2019.69 Te SNA biometric database ultimately
produced only 16,000 "real soldiers”, and saved up to $13 million, according to a
senior FGS ofcial.70 Te ofcial added that the FGS has since recruited additional
8,000 soldiers to the SNA, generating a force strength of 24,000 soldiers.
Key international partners have welcomed the demonstrable campaign against graf
in the SNA. "Te biometric registration of SNA soldiers and their enrollment in
electronic mobile money payment systems, as well as the introduction of a competitive
tendering process for logistics contracts, have helped to address issues of corruption
and accountability. Somali and international monitors are now able to verify the
amount and timelines of soldiers’ pay,” noted the Pentagon inspector general.71 In
September 2019, the Somali president signed into law a landmark anti-corruption bill
aimed at systemically combating graf within the government, including within the
security forces.72
Still, a number of experts interviewed for this report highlighted that, while the
biometric system reduced corruption, it did not eliminate it altogether, particularly the
scourge of nepotism. A former defense minister asserted that "as long as the control
and command of the SNA is based on clan afliation, promotions are not on merit
but loyalty to political leaders, then it will be fair to say that corruption will remain
rampant within the SNA.”73 A senior FGS ofcial said that contracts supporting the
SNA are consistently awarded to business people associated with president Farmaajo
and former PM Hassan Khaire when he was in ofce.74
68 Houreld, K. "US Suspends Aid to Somalia’s Battered Military Over Graf”. Reuters. (2017). Accessed at: https://
www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-military-exclusive-idUSKBN1E81XF
69 See "JTA”, ibid, page 5.
70 Interview with senior FGS defense ofcial, ibid.
71 See "Inspector general…” ibid, page 24.
72 Dhaysane, M. "Somali Presidents Signs Anti-Corruption Bill into Law.” Anadolu Agency. (2019). Accessed at:
https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somali-president-signs-anti-corruption-bill-into-law/1590257
73 Interview with former defense minister 1, ibid.
74 Interview with senior FGS ofcial, ibid.
The biometric
registration of
SNA soldiers and
their enrollment in
electronic mobile
money payment
systems, as well
as the introduction
of a competitive
tendering process
for logistics
contracts,
have helped to
address issues
of corruption and
accountability
16 Heritage Institute
6.3 Weak command and control
In the revised Somali Transitional Plan, success for Somali security forces is defned as
"clear, hold and build.”75
In other words, the forces should be capable of clearing a territory from al-Shabaab,
hold onto it for an extended period of time and help local communities build an
administration that ultimately stabilizes the area. Afer nearly 15 years of training,
capacity building and untold fnancial investment, the Somali security forces remain
largely incapable of achieving those objectives on their own. "Te Somali security
forces have not met many of the milestones related to operational capability,” observed
the Pentagon inspector general in his report to US Congress, adding that "Somali
security forces continue to rely on international support for operations, and
al-Shabaab is not degraded to the point where Somali security forces can
contain its threat independently.”76
Tese challenges are inextricably linked to the corrosive misgovernance permeating
the entire system, but they manifest themselves in many ways. Te weapons management system is a good example. Te FGS has been receiving considerable training and
resources to ensure that it can count, register and track weapons in the country. Tere
are an estimated 750,000 weapons of all types in the country,77 and for that reason,
weapons and ammunitions management (WAM) is extremely important.
75 See "revised STP”, ibid, page 13.
76 See "Inspector general…” ibid, page 18.
77 See "SJPER”, ibid, page 29.
Somali
security forces
continue to rely
on international
support for
operations, and
al-Shabaab is not
degraded to the
point where Somali
security forces can
contain its threat
independently
There are an
estimated 750,000
weapons of
all types in the
country
17 Heritage Institute
78 See "JTA”, ibid, page 7.
By its own admission, the FGS has yet to develop a WAM system. "Te absence of a
national weapons registration system, including an electronic central national registry
or database allowing for the recording and tracking of all internal transfers of weapons
to units and individuals, remains a gap in the management system,” said a recent joint
assessment with the UN and AMISOM.78
6.4 Operational capability
In terms of operational capabilities, a recent military operation in Lower Shabelle
illustrates the extraordinary challenges confronting Somali security forces. Dubbed
"Operation Badbaado 1”, its mantra is to "seize and hold” territory from militants. 
18 Heritage Institute
Its objective was "not only to recover areas under al-Shabaab control in Lower Shabelle, but also to consolidate the security of Mogadishu by disrupting al-Shabaab’s capacity to plan and execute terror attacks targeting the city”.79 Some 8,300 SNA soldiers
and 600 Danab special forces conducted the operation with the help of AMISOM and
US troops based at the nearby Ballidogle airbase.80
Te operation succeeded in liberating the towns of Sabiid, Bariirre, Awdheegle,
 Jannaale and El-Salini. Except El-Salini, the other four towns have bridges that cross
over the Shabelle River to and from Mogadishu. Te bridges were part of a network of
major supply routes (MSR) used by al-Shabaab to transport explosives from their vast
production facilities in Lower Shabelle. Experts believe that the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) used in the October 2017 attack in Mogadishu which
killed over 500 people, was driven over one of those bridges.81 Importantly, the SNA
set-up forward operating bases (FOBs) in each town. Te FGS, together with Southwest state ofcials, started the laborious work of stabilization through localized reconciliation and establishing local administrations.82
In early April 2021, al-Shabaab fghters have launched a major predawn attack to
recapture Bariire and Awdheegle from the FGS. Both the FGS and al-Shabaab claimed
victory for what appears to be a high-casualty attack. Government ofcials have confrmed to media the killing of over 70 Shabaab gunmen but admitted that the militant
group have briefy entered the strategic village of Bariire. Te FGS, said that its forces
have ultimately recaptured it.83 However, that al-Shabaab was able to penetrate at least
one of the towns liberated 18 months earlier raises questions about the "seize and
hold” strategy of the entire operation. In theory, the FGS should be able to hold onto
to these relatively small towns given that it has over a third of its entire force strength
committed to protecting them from militant attacks.
79 Hassan, H. "Lower Shabelle Stabilization: Lessons from Badbaado 1”. Report commissioned by FGS ministry of
interior and UNSOM, page 5.
80 "Inspector general…” ibid, page 21.
81 See "JTA”, ibid, page 4.
82 See "Lower Shabelle…”, ibid.
83 Maruf, H. "Al Shabaab Attacks Military Bases in Southern Somalia.” (2021). VOA News. Accessed at: https://
www.voanews.com/africa/al-shabab-attacks-military-bases-southern-somalia
19 Heritage Institute
Inadequate fnancing
One of the biggest structural impediments to rebuilding competent and capable
security forces in Somalia is inadequate fnancing.
84 Biyomaal and Habar Gidir clans were fghting in parts of Lower Shabelle for years. In September 2020, they
signed a peace pact. See "Reconciliation in Marka: Foes Turned Friends Recount Road to Peace. UNSOM. (2020)
Accessed at: https://somalia.un.org/en/91955-reconciliation-marka-foes-turned-friends-recall-road-peace
85 See "Lower Shabelle…”, ibid, page 13.
86 Interview with former defense minister 1, ibid.
87 Interview with senior FGS ofcial, ibid.
88 See "Lower Shabelle…”, ibid, page 16.
Operation Badbaado 1
In many ways, Operation Badbaado 1 is a tale of the complexity of running counterterrorism
operations in Somalia. Together with AMISOM and other partners, the FGS spent months
planning for this operation. Much of that planning focused on the intricate stabilization work
that was needed afer liberation. In a paradoxical way, the FGS instrumentalized clan identity in
selecting the soldiers it dispatched to the operation on the pretext that doing so would mitigate
long-simmering confict in the area between local clans.84 "Tis deliberate approach is in contrast
to the past when communities felt the SNA forces were predominately from a clan that was part of
the complex confict dynamics,” wrote a consultant hired to review the operation.85
Tis dismayed a number of ofcials we interviewed for this report. A former defense minister
lamented at what he described as "afrmative action run amok and the mainstreaming of
clannism in the security forces---the very ailment that led to its downfall decades ago.”86 A senior
FGS ofcial who works with the security forces said that Badbaado 1 operation "has efectively
ghettoized the SNA into subclans whose only capability is to stabilize the villages of their clansmen
where they tend to have deep family ties.”87
Regardless of how it’s perceived, the FGS appears to be intent on continuing this practice in future
operations. As highlighted in the report it commissioned, "the need to ensure the sensitivity in the
clan composition” is paramount to successful stabilization.88
7.
In a paradoxical
way, the FGS
instrumentalized
clan identity
in selecting
the soldiers it
dispatched to the
operation on the
pretext that doing
so would mitigate
long-simmering
confict in the area
between local
clans
One of the
biggest structural
impediments
to rebuilding
competent and
capable security
forces in Somalia
is inadequate
fnancing
20 Heritage Institute
89 See "SJPER”, ibid, page 55.
90 See "JTA”, ibid, page 5.
91 Interview with senior FGS defense ofcial, ibid.
92 See "JTA”, ibid, page 24.
93 See "revised Transitional Plan”, ibid, page 24.
94 Interview with former defense minister 2, ibid.
95 See "inspector general…” ibid, page 26.
96 Interview with former defense minister 2, ibid.
The Somali
government
has consistently
struggled to
fund weapons,
vehicles, and
communications
equipment for
existing and newly
trained troops and
police
Even though the FGS spends over half of its budget on security, the vast majority of
that funding goes to support the security sector’s wage bill.89 Te budget required to
recruit, train and equip professional security forces far exceeds the current revenue
capacity of the FGS. A recent assessment found that "lack of resources still remains a
pressing concern” for the security sector.90 Te chronic underfunding is unleashing a
domino efect where security services are perpetually unable to carry out their duties,
ofen creating the conditions for al-Shabaab to exploit the vacuum. A senior FGS
ofcial who is privy to the fnancing of the security sector said the "lack of resources is
[undermining] the long-term sustainability of the force.”91
Te impa


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