Turkish Base Key to Building Strong Somali Army

Turkish Base Key to Building Strong Somali Army

Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, left, Somali prime minister Hassan Ali Khayre, center, and Turkish Ambassador to Somalia Olgan Bekar cut a ribbon to open the Turkey-Somali military training center in Mogadishu, Sept. 30, 2017.

(voanews) — One year from now, if all goes according to plan, the African Union mission in Somalia will withdraw 1,500 soldiers from the country, in a crucial first step toward Somalia shedding its reliance on outside troops to maintain security and fight off Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

But the plan depends on Somali government forces being ready to protect the government and civilians from the al-Qaida-linked militants.

Last month, Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abukar Osman, told the U.N. Security Council that “the Somali National Army is not ready to take over the security of the country.” Premature withdrawal of AMISOM, he said, might be a “recipe for disaster.”

That’s why the opening of a new Turkish military base in Mogadishu is being hailed by some analysts as a possible turning point in the decades-long effort to stabilize Somalia. Turkey, which backs the Somali federal government, plans to train thousands of troops for the Somali National Army in hopes the SNA will become cohesive and powerful enough to handle the al-Shabab threat by itself.

Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, right, hands a flag to a Somali soldier at the new Turkey-Somali military training center in Mogadishu, Sept. 30, 2017.

Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, right, hands a flag to a Somali soldier at the new Turkey-Somali military training center in Mogadishu, Sept. 30, 2017.

FILE – Somali soldiers search through homes for al-Shabaab fighters, during an operation in Ealsha Biyaha, Somalia, June, 2, 2012.

“This has to be the factory that produces the security forces, to enable the reintegration of a balanced army and to equip them before they are put to operation,” he says.

Turkey said it wants to do that. At the opening of the base on Saturday, the chief of staff of the Turkish army, General Hulusi Akar, said that his government plans to help Somalia until the country gets “militarily stronger.”

The Turkish ambassador to Somalia, Olgan Bekar, said his government wants to “help the Somalis reclaim authority and restore order in the country.”

AMISOM threatening to leave

Fiqi says the government of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known by his nickname, Farmajo, is feeling the pressure to get its forces in order.

“The Somali government is under constant reminder that time is running out for AU troops, and the only troops who can replace them are Somali soldiers,” he says.

FILE – AMISOM soldiers and armored vehicles pass a woman riding a cart during a patrol at a village outside Mogadishu, Sept. 19, 2016. (Photo: J. Patinkin/VOA)

The AU force, AMISOM, arrived in Somalia in 2007 as al-Shabab emerged to fight Ethiopian troops who invaded in late 2006 to oust a six-month-old Islamist government from power. AMISOM troops have been the main defender of Somalia’s fledging federal governments since Ethiopians left at the start of 2009.