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Somalia: US resumes direct financial assistance to SNA forces

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The United States has resumed directed financial and security support to Somali National [Army SNA], Ryan Grizzle has said, adding that "the assistance will be, however, limited".

Already, the US troops have engaged in joint operations with non-mentored units, with the first coming this week at Lower Shebelle, against the Al-Shabaab militants, US embassy said.

Support mainly focusing on food, fuel, and stipends for the troops was suspended in 2017, with the US blaming army generals for lack of accountability.

Operations were suspended after the withdrawal of the US, even leading to a mass exodus of SNA troops, further weakening the fight against the Al-Qaida associated group, reports indicated.

But the US on Wednesday lauded FGS for "improving the financial management of SNA" as part of the ongoing institutional reforms in the armed forces.

The reforms, Grizzle said, "gave the United States increased confidence in accountability mechanisms for donor resources".

FGS has struggled to form a formidable force to restore security in the Horn of Africa nation, with numerous resignations over poor pay eclipsing successes made in the process.

Somalia, the US said, should continue prioritizing security sector reforms, including asset management and human resources, as part of the comprehensive effort to build and sustain capable, professional security forces.

For the support to continue, Grizzle warned, "the US will only continue support to SNAF operations that are focused on defeating terrorist organizations."

Furthermore, reconciliation between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States is an even more vital step towards reestablishing governance, security, and prosperity for all Somalis, he added.

Mogadishu has been accused by federal states of employing antics meant to "paralyze" operations, a move that has escalated political tensions in recent days.

Jubaland and Puntland have particularly been critical of President Mohamed Farmajo, who has often accused federal states "plotting to overthrow me".

The federal government has been under pressure to instill reforms in the armed forces, which had been in the past accused of massive corruption.

Part of radical reforms introduced recently include paying soldiers directly, a responsibility that was previously bestowed upon military commanders, who were linked to corruption.

Under the new system, payments are linked to a biometric database containing soldiers' fingerprints, personal details, and bank accounts, replacing patchy records kept on Excel spreadsheets, Reuters reported.

Officials say about 10,000 "ghost soldiers" were expunged from the records -- roughly one in three troops according to government estimates, though analysts questioned these figures.

By taking control of salary payments, Mogadishu is seeking to cut out powerful commanders who for decades ran the SNA "as private fiefdoms," Fiona Blyth from the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia wrote in an April report.

The FGS has been accused of using the national army supposed to fight the enemy to destroy the Federal Member States in Somalia amid international and local efforts to rebuild the country after decades of conflict.