Somalia: Why the U.S. Military is in Somalia?
STUTTGART, Germany – Somalia collapsed as a state, beginning in the late 1980s, and the Somali people have suffered some 30 years of war, displacement, and famine ever since.
The Somali conflict has crossed borders, primarily into Kenya, where large-scale and high profile terrorist attacks have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including college students in their dormitories and shoppers in a Nairobi mall. There were also attacks against civilians in Kampala, Uganda.
The election of the current government, led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who is widely known by his nickname, “Farmaajo,” has given Somalia its best chance for a just and lasting peace in over a generation. The U.S. Africa Command and U.S. military, in close collaboration with the U.S. Mission to Somalia and U.S. Agency for International Development, are working with his administration across the “3 Ds”: development, diplomacy, and defense.
The U.S. response to the challenges in Somalia has been to work with the Federal Government and the Federal Member state administrations, in coordination with the African Union, the United Nations, and other partners working toward a common goal: to support Somali-led efforts to stabilize and rebuild their country along democratic and federal lines.
For our part, U.S. Africa Command and the U.S. military are committed to serving as the security component of the broader political-diplomatic efforts of the U.S. Mission to Somalia, whether it is in protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, or in supporting Somali forces through the train and equip, as well as advise and assist missions.
AFRICOM efforts are in conjunction with Somali National Security Forces and are providing direct support to the five primary troop-contributing countries in the African Union Mission in Somalia, also known as AMISOM: Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. We work with the United Nations, the European Union, and a range of traditional and non-traditional partners including the United Kingdom, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
Our military actions, to include strikes against the Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Shabaab terrorist group and – more recently – against a new Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-aligned group, are done in support and with the concurrence of the Federal Government of Somalia. Our policy is to support Somalia-led efforts to encourage members of the Al-Shabaab and ISIS to defect and pledge support to the Somali Government. When that is not possible, our military policy to target these groups is in accordance with the laws of armed conflict and in support of our broader stabilization goals.
Our work in Africa reflects the reality that those who are at greatest risk there from violent extremist organizations are the Africans themselves. Groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have killed tens of thousands of their fellow Africans, indeed tens of thousands of their fellow Muslims. Our work also reflects the local, regional and global threats posed by Al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia, threats that can be best addressed over the long term by inclusive and effective Somali governance, including security forces able to exert control over territory.
A safe, stable, secure and prosperous Africa is an enduring United States interest and a key component of our U.S. foreign policy. In support of this policy, AFRICOM, in concert with other U.S. Government agencies and partners, conducts sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military sponsored activities and training, and other military operations to promote stability and security in Africa.
AMISOM troop contributors have been indispensable partners, working together to deter and defeat terrorist threats in Somalia, establishing and expanding security in the country to allow for the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member State administrations to bring unity and representative governance to the whole nation.
The people of Somalia have considerable work ahead to complete their transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. Nevertheless, we should take notice of the progress the Somali people have made toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalis are resilient and determined to defeat the terrorists and forces of instability. The men and women of AFRICOM stand committed to helping foster the conditions for prosperity and security and help the FGS deliver the future that the people of Somalia deserve.
Support to AMISOM
In Somalia, just as it does across the continent, the U.S. military works with African partners to deter and defeat extremist organizations. AFRICOM works by, with and through African and other partners to address these threats. “By, with and through” refers to a strategic approach designed to achieve U.S. strategic objectives in Africa by enabling the security forces of partner nations who have compatible strategic objectives. This approach places an emphasis on U.S. military capabilities employed in a supporting role, not as principal participants in any armed conflict.
Security operations are executed almost exclusively by the partnered security forces. AFRICOM works with partner forces and based on their needs, conducts training, advising, assisting, equipping, developing security force institutions, and improving the professionalism of the partner military.
As such, the U.S. has been supporting AMISOM since its inception in 2007. AMISOM, as a multidimensional peace support operation, is mandated to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, provide security in order to enable the political process at all levels, and facilitate the gradual handing over of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF).
The U.S. Government has provided AMISOM with equipment, logistical support, and peacekeeping training. U.S. equipment support has included armored personnel carriers, trucks, communications equipment, water purification devices, generators, tents, night vision equipment, and helicopters. The U.S. Government has provided peacekeeping training to AMISOM through the Department of State’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.
Support to the SNSF
AFRICOM provides training and security force assistance to the SNSF, including support for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to facilitate their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in their country. Training includes advising and assisting the Somali Forces to increase their capability and effectiveness in order to bring stability and security to their country.
There is more than 500 U.S. military personnel in Somalia, a number that fluctuates from time to time depending on training missions, operations, and other security force assistance activities that are being carried out in any given month. This number includes personnel supporting the Mogadishu Coordination Center (MCC) which is a forward element of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa which coordinates training and security force assistance activities for SNSF and AMISOM. For perspective, Somalia is a nation with a coastline the same length as the Eastern coast of the United States.
“The key concept to understand is that everything we do in Somalia is at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and part of our military support to public diplomacy efforts of the State Department,” said AFRICOM Commander, U.S. Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser. “Africa Command and the Department of State are working as part of a substantial international security assistance effort coordinated by the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary-General.”
Waldhauser said that the international effort includes the United Nations, European Union, U.S., United Kingdom, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The aim of these international partners is to demonstrate sufficient progress in building the SNSF in 2017 and 2018 to justify an extension of AMISOM beyond 2019.
“All the work we do by, with and through AMISOM and our Somali partners, whether dealing with the threats they face or training them to improve their capabilities are geared toward one goal,” Waldhauser said. “And that is establishing a secure enough environment for the broader diplomacy efforts related to national reconciliation and the building of a viable, capable and representative government in Somalia.”
The U.S. takes a whole-of-government approach to addressing security issues and broader challenges alongside Somalis because the solutions in Somalia require efforts beyond just the military.
U.S. foreign policy objectives in Somalia are to promote political and economic stability, prevent the use of Somalia as a safe haven for international terrorism, and alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by years of conflict, drought, flooding, and poor governance. The U.S. is committed to helping Somalia's government strengthen democratic institutions, improve stability and security, and deliver services for the Somali people.
The U.S. has provided $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance in Somalia since 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees. Since 2011, we have provided an additional $240 million in development assistance to support economic, political, and social sectors to achieve greater stability, establish a formal economy, obtain access to basic services, and attain representation through legitimate, credible governance. (Dept. of State Fact Sheet, April 12, 2017)
The U.S. works closely with other donor partners and international organizations to support social services and the development of an effective and representative security sector, including military, police, and justice sector while supporting ongoing African Union peacekeeping efforts.
USAID is working to increase stability and reduce the appeal of extremism in Somalia through programming that fosters good governance, promotes economic recovery and growth, offers youth skills training, provides support to famine relief efforts, and works to increase social cohesion through an improved community with government relationships.
Security cooperation is one of our core missions at AFRICOM because we know that partnering with African states and regional bodies to improve their capabilities and knowledge is important in addressing shared security challenges.
Continued support to AMISOM is one of the important multinational efforts in place today. AMISOM has achieved significant territorial gains against Al-Shabaab and has partnered with SNSF to improve their operational capabilities. The resulting improvement in the security situation has led to greater opportunities for progress in good governance and improved economic conditions for all Somalis.
“We have made some measurable progress in Somalia, but there is certainly more work to be done,” said Waldhauser. “And with the strong relationship we have established with President ‘Farmaajo’ and his government, and working closely with our allies and partners; the goal of a safe, stable and prosperous Somalia is something we will all continue to work toward together.”