Over 400 SNA troops graduate from UK training base in Baidoa
BAIDOA, Somalia - Over 400 Somali National Army [SNA] troops graduated from UK training base in Baidoa, the administrative capital of Southwest state, in the ongoing efforts to build a reliable force in Somalia.
The 8th Brigade becomes the first batch of a battalion to graduate from a British-sponsored facility, and adds up the numbers of already trained Special Forces in Somalia, who could take the mantle in restoring security by 2021.
Already, there are over 2,000 troops trained by Turkey [Gorgor] and the US [Danab], who have demonstrated ability to secure the country. The US is set to carry on with training until 2027, AFRICOM said.
Thursday's pass out parade so 450 soldiers successfully completing a 12-month course, which includes defensive and offensive skills, basic command and control of checkpoints and leadership.
Other disciplines offered by the Royal Force were live firing, armed conflict, human rights and gender violence, which are effective for soldiers during ground operations, officials said.
Traditionally, the UK has backed efforts to strengthen security institutions in Somalia through Conflict Stability Security Fund [CSSF] which also aides promotion of good governance.
Somalia has been without a functional army since the dethroning of Siad Barre, a renowned dictator in 1991. Throughout the period, the country has battled armed militias and the Al-Shabaab insurgents, who are keen to topple fragile UN-backed administration.
Ben Fender, the UK ambassador to Somalia insisted that London is keen to build a "professional army" with an ability to "safeguard" civilians in Somalia, besides pushing for development.
"The UK is supporting Somalia to strengthen its security institutions and governance to deliver effective operation," Fender said, noting the "impressive attitude" of the graduates.
Already, the UK has handed over a new military barrack to the 450 troops which will also serve as headquarters within the fragile Southwest state, which is exposed to Al-Shabaab threat.
The first company of SNA troops graduated in April last year and this year’s batch mark the third company to have successfully completed training in Southwest state, officials said.
SNA troops are expected to take over by next year when at least 22,000 troops from AMISOM contributing nations are expected to exit. Already, around 1,000 troops will leave the mission by the end of March 2020.
Britain is keen to train a full brigade which consists of three battalions or nine companies within this year in Somalia, the envoy said while lauding security forces for liberating several strategic towns.
"We have also supported the construction of an excellent training facility as well as a barracks and a firing range that is now able to train a new company every eight to ten weeks.”
Although the idea of training the troops has been largely welcomed, a section of opposition politicians has expressed reservations, accusing FGS of "misusing the troops" by targeting regional leaders.
For instance, Turkish-trained Gorgor troops participated in the raid at Dhusamareb and the widely condemned Gedo region, where they recently clashed with Jubaland regional forces.
The internal wrangles, international partners warned, risks giving room for Al-Shabaab "resurgence" despite substantive gains made against the Islamist insurgents in the last decade.