Somali Armed Forces

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Somali Armed Forces
Ciidamada Qalabka Sida
القوات المسلحة الصومالية
Founded 1960
Service branches Somali National Army[1]
Somali Air Force[1]
Somali Navy[1]
Headquarters Mogadishu, Somalia
Commander-in-Chief Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini
Chief of Army Abdullahi Anod
Military age 18
Available for
military service
2,260,175 (2010 est.; males)
2,159,293 (2010 est.; females), age 18–49
Fit for
military service
1,331,894 (2010 est.; males)
1,357,051 (2010 est.; females), age 18–49
Reaching military
age annually
101,634 (2010 est.; males)
101,072 (2010 est.; females)
Active personnel 20,000[2]
Percent of GDP 0.9% (2005)
Foreign suppliers  European Union
 United States
Gulf states

The Somali Armed Forces (SAF) are the military forces of Somalia, officially known as the Federal Republic of Somalia.[3] Headed by the President as Commander in Chief, they are constitutionally mandated to ensure the nation's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.[4]

The SAF was initially made up of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Force.[5] In the post-independence period, it grew to become among the larger militaries in Africa.[6] Due to patrimonial and repressive state policies, the military had by 1988 begun to disintegrate.[7] By the time dictator Siad Barre fled in 1991, the armed forces had dissolved.[8] As of January 2014, the security sector is overseen by the Federal Government of Somalia's Ministry of Defence, Ministry of National Security, and Ministry of Interior and Federalism.[9] The Somaliland, Puntland and Khaatumo regional governments maintain their own security and police forces.

According to CQ Press' Worldwide Government Directory with Intergovernmental Organizations, Somalia's defense forces as of 2013 include the Somali National Army, Somali Air Force, Somali Navy, Somali Police Force and National Intelligence and Security Agency.[1]


Middle Ages to colonial period

Historically, Somali society conferred distinction upon warriors (waranle) and rewarded military acumen. All Somali males were regarded as potential soldiers, except for the odd religious cleric (wadaado).[10] Somalia's many Sultanates each maintained regular troops. In the early Middle Ages, the conquest of Shewa by the Ifat Sultanate ignited a rivalry for supremacy with the Solomonic dynasty.

The Sultanate of Hobyo's cavalry and fort.

Many similar battles were fought between the succeeding Sultanate of Adal and the Solomonids, with both sides achieving victory and suffering defeat. During the protracted Ethiopian-Adal War (1529–1559), Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi defeated several Ethiopian Emperors and embarked on a conquest referred to as the Futuh Al-Habash ("Conquest of Abyssinia"), which brought three-quarters of Christian Abyssinia under the power of the Muslim Adal Sultanate.[11][12] Al-Ghazi's forces and their Ottoman allies came close to extinguishing the ancient Ethiopian kingdom, but the Abyssinians managed to secure the assistance of Cristóvão da Gama's Portuguese troops and maintain their domain's autonomy. However, both polities in the process exhausted their resources and manpower, which resulted in the contraction of both powers and changed regional dynamics for centuries to come. Many historians trace the origins of hostility between Somalia and Ethiopia to this war.[13] Some scholars also argue that this conflict proved, through their use on both sides, the value of firearms such as the matchlock musket, cannons and the arquebus over traditional weapons.[14]

At the turn of the 20th century, the Majeerteen Sultanate, Sultanate of Hobyo, Warsangali Sultanate and Dervish State employed cavalry in their battles against the imperialist European powers during the Campaign of the Sultanates.

In Italian Somaliland, eight "Arab-Somali" infantry battalions, the Ascari, and several irregular units of Italian officered dubats were established. These units served as frontier guards and police. There were also Somali artillery and zaptié (carabinieri) units forming part of the Italian Royal Corps of Colonial Troops from 1889 to 1941. Between 1911 and 1912, over 1,000 Somalis from Mogadishu served as combat units along with Eritrean and Italian soldiers in the Italo-Turkish War.[15] Most of the troops stationed never returned home until they were transferred back to Italian Somaliland in preparation for the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.[16]

In 1914, the Somaliland Camel Corps was formed in the British Somaliland protectorate and saw service before, during, and after the Italian invasion of the territory during World War II.[10]

1960 to 1991

Lieutenant Colonel Salaad Gabeyre Kediye, an early Somali military leader. Kediye was executed after a military power struggle in 1972.

Just prior to independence in 1960, the Trust Territory of Somalia established a national army to defend the nascent Somali Republic's borders. Thus the Somali Police Force's Mobile Group (Darawishta Poliska or Darawishta) was formed. April 12, 1960 has since been marked as Armed Forces Day.[17] British Somaliland became independent on 26 June 1960 as the State of Somaliland, and the Trust Territory of Somalia (the former Italian Somaliland) followed suit five days later.[18] On July 1, 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic.[19]

After independence, the Darawishta merged with the Somaliland Scouts of the former British Somaliland protectorate to form the 5,000 strong Somali National Army (SNA). The new military's first commander was Colonel Daud Abdulle Hirsi, a former officer in the British military administration's police force, the Somalia Gendarmerie.[10] Officers were trained in the United Kingdom, Egypt and Italy. Despite the social and economic benefits associated with military service, the armed forces began to suffer chronic manpower shortages only a few years after independence.[20]

Merging British Somaliland Italian Somaliland caused political controversy. The distribution of power between the two regions and among the major clans in both areas was a bone of contention. In December 1961, a group of British-trained northern junior army officers revolted after southern officers of higher rank took command of their units. The rebellion was put down by other northern Noncommissioned officers (NCOs), although dissatisfaction in the north lingered.[21]

The force was expanded and modernized after the rebellion with the assistance of Soviet and Cuban advisors. The Library of Congress writes that '[i]n 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to grant a US$32 million loan to modernise the Somali army, and expand it to 14,000 personnel. Moscow later increased the amount to US$55 million. The Soviet Union, seeking to counter United States influence in the Horn of Africa, made an unconditional loan and fixed a generous twenty-year repayment schedule.'

The army was tested in 1964 when the conflict with Ethiopia over the Somali-inhabited Ogaden erupted into warfare. On 16 June 1963, Somali guerrillas started an insurgency at Hodayo, in eastern Ethiopia, a watering place north of Werder, after Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie rejected their demand for self-government in the Ogaden. The Somali government initially refused to support the guerrilla forces, which eventually numbered about 3,000. However, in January 1964, after Ethiopia sent reinforcements to the Ogaden, Somali forces launched ground and air attacks across the border and started providing assistance to the guerrillas. The Ethiopian Air Force responded with punitive strikes across its southwestern frontier against Feerfeer, northeast of Beledweyne and Galkayo. On 6 March 1964, Somalia and Ethiopia agreed to a cease-fire. At the end of the month, the two sides signed an accord in Khartoum, Sudan, agreeing to withdraw their troops from the border, cease hostile propaganda, and start peace negotiations. Somalia also terminated its support of the guerrillas.[10]

During the power vacuum that followed the assassination of Somalia's second president, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, the military staged a coup d'état on 21 October 1969 (the day after Shermarke's funeral) and took over office.[22] Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who had succeeded Hersi as Chief of Army in 1965,[10] was installed as President of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), the new government of Somalia.[22] The country was renamed the Somali Democratic Republic. In 1971, he announced the regime's intention to phase out military rule.

In 1972, the National Security Court, headed by admiral Mohamed Gelle Yusuf, ordered the execution of Siad Barre's fellow coup instigators, Major General Mohamed Aynanshe Guleid (who had become the Vice President), Brigadier General Salaad Gabeyre Kediye and Lieutenant Colonel Abdulkadir Dheel Abdulle.[23]

The U.S. Army Area Handbook wrote in 1976:[24]

In mid-1976 the military command structure was simple and direct. Major General Samantar was not only commander of the National Army - and therefore commander of the organizationally subordinated navy and air force- but also secretary of state for defence and a vice president of SRC and thus a member of the major decision-making body of the government. Holding the two highest.. posts, he stood alone in the command structure between the army and President Siad, the head of state. When in July 1976 the SRC relinquished its power to the newly appointed SSRP, Samantar retained the portfolio of the Ministry of Defense. The country's real power appeared to be in the SSRP's Politburo, of which Samantar became a vice president. Before the military coup, command channels ran directly from the commander of the National Army to army sector commanders who exercised authority over military forces.. in the field, and by 1986 combat units had been reorganized along Soviet lines. There is no indication that either the chain of command to lower echelons or the organisation of combat units has changed significantly since the coup.

In July 1976, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the army consisted of 22,000 personnel, 6 tank battalions, 9 mechanised infantry battalions, 5 infantry battalions, 2 commando battalions, and 11 artillery battalions (5 anti-aircraft).[25] Two hundred T-34 and 50 T-54/55 main battle tanks had been estimated to have been delivered. The IISS emphasised that 'spares are short and not all equipment is serviceable.' The U.S. Army Area Handbook for Somalia, 1977 edition, agreed that the army comprised six tank and nine mechanised infantry battalions, but listed no infantry battalions, the two commando battalions, and 10 total artillery (five field and five anti-aircraft) battalions. (Kaplan et al, DA Pam 550-86, Second Edition, 1977, p. 315)

Three divisions (the 21st, 54th, and 60th)[26] were formed, and later took part in the Ogaden War. While the IISS did not list them in July 1976, there is evidence that they were formed as early as 1970 or earlier: Mohamud Muse Hersi has been listed by as commander of the 21st Division from 1970 to 1972,[27] and Muse Hassan Sheikh Sayid Abdulle as commander 26th Division in 1970–71.

A Somali soldier poses for a photograph during the multinational joint service Exercise Bright Star '85.

Under the leadership of General Abdullah Mohamed Fadil, Abdullahi Ahmed Irro and other senior Somali military officials formulated a plan of attack for what was to become the Ogaden War in Ethiopia.[28] This was part of a broader effort to unite all of the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn region into a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn).[29] At the start of the offensive, the SNA consisted of 35,000 soldiers,[30] and was vastly outnumbered by the Ethiopian forces. Somali national army troops seized the Godey Front on July 24, 1977, after the 60th Division defeated the Ethiopian 4th Infantry Division.[31] Godey's capture allowed the Somali side to consolidate its hold on the Ogaden, concentrate its forces, and advance further to other regions of Ethiopia.[32] The invasion reached an abrupt end with the Soviet Union's sudden shift of support to Ethiopia, followed by almost the entire communist world siding with the latter. The Soviets halted supplies to Barre's regime and instead increased the distribution of aid, weapons, and training to Ethiopia's newly communist Derg regime. General Vasily Ivanovich Petrov was assigned to restructure the Ethiopian Army.[33] The Soviets also brought in around 15,000 Cuban troops to assist the Ethiopian military. By 1978, the Somali forces were pushed out of most of the Ogaden, although it would take nearly three more years for the Ethiopian Army to gain full control of Godey.[32]

Following the 1977–78 Ogaden campaign, Abudwak became the base for the SNA's 21st Division.[34]

The shift in support by the Soviet Union motivated the Barre regime to seek allies elsewhere. It eventually settled on Russia's Cold War arch-rival, the United States, which had been courting the Somali government for some time. The U.S. eventually gave extensive military support. Following the disastrous Ogaden War, Barr's government began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in the abortive 1978 coup d'état.[28][35] Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed.[36] However, several officials managed to escape abroad where they formed the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), the first of various dissident groups dedicated to ousting Barre's regime by force.[37] Among these opposition movements were the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) and Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA), a Gadabuursi group which had been formed in the northwest to counter the Somali National Movement (SNM) Isaaq militia.[38]

In 1981 one of three corps headquarters for the ground forces was situated at Hargeisa in the northwestern Woqooyi Galbeed region. Others were believed to be garrisoned at Gaalkacyo in the north-central Mudug region and at Beled Weyne in the south-central Hiiraan region. The ground forces were tactically organized into seven divisions. Allocated among the divisions were three mechanized infantry brigades, ten anti-aircraft battalions, and thirteen artillery battalions.[5]

In 1984, the government attempted to solve the manpower shortage problem by instituting obligatory military service.[20] Men of eighteen to forty years of age were to be conscripted for two years. Opposition to conscription and to the campaigns against guerrilla groups resulted in widespread evasion of military service. As a result, during the late 1980s the government normally met manpower requirements by impressing men into military service. This practice alienated an increasing number of Somalis, who wanted the government to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts that were slowly destroying Somali society.

However, as the 1980s wore on, Siad Barre increasingly used clanism as a political resource.[39] Barre filled the key positions in the army and security forces with members of three Darood clans closely related to his own reer: the Marehan, Dulbahantes, and Ogaadeens.[40] Compagnon wrote in 1992: "Colonels and generals were part of the president's personal patronage network; they had to remain loyal to him and his relatives, whether they had command or were temporarily in the cabinet."[41] As a result, by 1990 many Somalis looked upon the armed forces as Siad Barre's personal army. This perception eventually destroyed the military's reputation as a national institution. The critical posts of commander of the 2nd Tank Brigade and 2nd Artillery Brigade in Mogadishu were both held by Marehan officers, as were the posts of commander of the three reserve brigades in Hargeisa in the north.[42]

By 1987 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency estimated the army was 40,000 strong (with Ethiopian army strength estimated at the same time as 260,000).[43] The President, Mohamed Siad Barre, held the rank of Major General and acted as Minister of Defence. There were three vice-ministers of national defence. From the SNA headquarters in Mogadishu four sectors were directed: 26th Sector at Hargeisa, 54th Sector at Garowe, 21st Sector at Dusa Mareb, and 60th Sector at Baidoa. Thirteen divisions, averaging 3,300 strong, were divided between the four sectors – four in the northernmost and three in each of the other sectors. The sectors were under the command of brigadiers (three) and a colonel (one).

By the mid-1980s, more resistance movements supported by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration had sprung up across the country. Barre responded by ordering punitive measures against those he perceived as locally supporting the guerillas, especially in the northern regions. The clampdown included bombing of cities, with the northwestern administrative center of Hargeisa, a Somali National Movement (SNM) stronghold, among the targeted areas in 1988.[44]

Compagnon writes that:[45]

From the summer of 1988 onwards, there was a combination of political repression against targeted clans and private use of violence by predatory units and individuals of the former 'national' armed forces - already in the process of disintegration - who used their power to rape, kill, and loot freely. The ..distinction between private illegitimate violence and public coersion disappeared. Many former military men later joined the clan militias or the armed gangs.

Military exercises between the United States and the Siad Barre regime continued during the 1980s. 'Valiant Usher '86' took place during the U.S. fiscal year of 1986, but actually in late 1985, and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in Exercise Eastern Wind in August 1987 in the area of Geesalay.[46]

Somalian National Army (SNA) troops passing in review during Exercise EASTERN WIND '83 ceremony.

As of 1 June 1989, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that the Army comprised four corps and 12 division headquarters.[47] At the time, the military had decreased considerably in size.[48] The IISS noted that these formations 'were in name only; below establishment in units, men, and equipment. Brigades were of battalion size.'[47] Units and formations listed in 1990 within six military sectors included the twelve divisions, four tank brigades, 45 mechanized and infantry brigades, 4 commando brigades, 1 surface-to-air missile brigade, 3 field artillery brigades, 30 field battalions, and one air defence artillery battalion.[49]

In mid-November 1989, rebel forces briefly captured the Mudug province's capital Galkayo, Human Rights Watch reported in September 1990. They reportedly seized significant quantities of military equipment at the 4th Division Headquarters, including tanks, 30 mobile anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers. However, the rebels were unable to take most of this equipment so they incinerated it. Government forces thereafter launched massive reprisals against civilians residing in the regions corresponding with the 21st, 54th, 60th and 77th military sectors. The impacted towns and villages included Gowlalo, Dagaari, Sadle-Higlo, Bandiir Adley, Galinsor, Wargalo, Do'ol, Halimo, Go'ondalay and Galkayo.[50]

The various rebel movements eventually succeeded in ousting the government altogether in the ensuing civil war that broke out in 1991. The Somali National Army and all related military and security forces finally dissolved.[8] In 1992, the 15-member Security Council imposed an arms embargo via United Nations Security Council Resolution 733 in order to stop the flow of weapons to feuding militia groups.[51] Much equipment was left in situ, deteriorating, and was sometimes discovered and photographed by intervention forces in the early 1990s.

Transitional period

From 2002, Ismail Qasim Naji served as the military chief of the Transitional National Government (TNG).[52] He was given the rank of Major General. The TNG's new army, made up of 90 women and 2,010 men, was equipped on March 21, 2002 with guns and armed wagons surrendered to the TNG by private parties in exchange for money, according to TNG officials. TNG president Abdulkassim Salat Hassan instructed the recruits to use the weaponry to "pacify Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia by fighting bandits, anarchists and all forces that operate for survival outside the law." But the TNG controlled only one part of Mogadishu; rival warlords controlled the remainder.[53] During this time, the TNG was opposed militarily and politically by the rival Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC). Eventually the leadership of the SRRC and the TNG were reconciled.

After a two-year consultation process, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed in 2004 by Somali politicians in Nairobi. The process concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as President.[54][55] The TFG later moved its temporary headquarters to Baidoa.[54] President Yusuf requested that the African Union deploy military forces in Somalia. However, as the AU lacked the resources to do so over the short term, Yusuf brought in his own militia from Puntland. Along with the U.S. funding the ARPCT coalition, this alarmed many in south-central Somalia, and provided the ascendant Islamic Courts Union (ICU) with substantial recruitment opportunities.[56]

A battle for Mogadishu followed in the first half of 2006 in which the ARPCT confronted the ICU.[57] However, with local support, the ICU captured the city in June of the year. It then expanded its area of control in south-central Somalia over the following months, assisted militarily by Eritrea.[56] In an effort at reconciliation, TFG and ICU representatives held several rounds of talks in Khartoum under the auspices of the Arab League. The meetings ended unsuccessfully due to uncompromising positions retained by both parties.[54] Hardline Islamists subsequently gained power within the ICU, prompting fears of a Talibanization of the movement.[58]

In December 2006, Ethiopian troops entered Somalia to assist the TFG against the advancing Islamic Courts Union,[59] initially winning the Battle of Baidoa. On December 28, 2006, the allied forces recaptured the capital from the ICU.[60] The offensive helped the TFG solidify its rule.[57] Ethiopian and TFG forces forced the ICU from Ras Kamboni between January 7–12, 2007. They were assisted by at least two U.S. air strikes.[61] On January 8, 2007, for the first time since taking office, President Ahmed entered Mogadishu from Baidoa as the TFG moved its base to the national capital.[62] President Ahmed brought his Puntland army chief with him, and Abdullahi Ali Omar became Somali chief of army on 10 February 2007.[63]

On 20 January 2007, with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1744, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was formally authorised, making it possible to securely assure the government's presence in Mogadishu.[64] Seven hundred Ugandan troops, earmarked for AMISOM, were landed at Mogadishu airport on 7–8 March 2007.[65]

In Mogadishu, Hawiye residents resented the Islamic Courts Union's defeat.[66] They distrusted the TFG, which was at the time dominated by individuals from the Darod clan, believing that it was dedicated to the advancement of Darod interests in lieu of the Hawiye. Additionally, they feared reprisals for massacres committed in 1991 in Mogadishu by Hawiye militants against Darod civilians, and were dismayed by Ethiopian involvement.[67] Critics of the TFG likewise charged that its federalist platform was part of a plot by the Ethiopian government to keep Somalia weak and divided.[68] During its first few months in the capital, the TFG was initially restricted to key strategic points, with the large northwestern and western suburbs controlled by Hawiye rebels.[69] In March 2007, President Ahmed announced plans to forcibly disarm militias in the city.[67] According to the ISA, a coalition of local insurgents led by Al-Shabaab subsequently launched a wave of attacks against the TFG and Ethiopian troops.[70] The allied forces in return mounted a heavy-handed response.[71]

Human Rights Watch alleged that all of the warring parties were responsible for widespread violations of the laws of war, as civilians were caught in the ensuing crossfire. Insurgents reportedly deployed militants and established strongholds in heavily populated neighborhoods, launched mortar rounds from residential areas, and targeted public and private individuals for assassination and violence.[70] TFG forces alleged to have failed to efficaciously warn civilians in combat zones, impeded relief efforts, plundered property, in some instances engaged in murder and violence, and mistreated detainees during mass arrests.[70][72] According to HRW, the implicated TFG forces included military, police and intelligence personnel, as well as the private guards of senior TFG officials. Victims were often unable to identify TFG personnel, and confused militiamen aligned with TFG officials with TFG police officers and other state security personnel. However, where they were able to implicate TFG military forces, they suggested that these units had been trained by and were acting under the command of or in concert with Ethiopian National Defense Force officers. HRW also alleged that the TFG forces lacked formal command-and-control structures, with soldiers often alternately serving within the army, clan militias, and autonomous armed groups.[72] Ethiopian forces were similarly reported to have indiscriminately fired mortars, rockets and artillery shells into densely populated areas, looted property, and in some instances shot and executed civilians.[70]

Officers belonging to the same Majerteen clan as President Ahmed had been appointed, c. December 2008, to strategic positions within the army in order to assure loyalty.[73] Along with the National Security Agency led by General Mohamed Warsame ("Darwish"), these well-armed units were reported to comprise around 2,000 fighters. They reportedly carried out a number of counter-insurgency operations with minimal coordination with other security agencies, which alienated other units and resulted in high desertion rates. They carried out illegal detention and torture in the capital and other areas. Civilian felt the units to be arrogant and above the law.

Al-Shabaab and other radical elements of the ICU subsequently regrouped and continued their insurgency. As a truce in March 2009, Somalia's coalition government led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed announced that it would re-implement shari'a as the nation's official judicial system.[74] However, conflict continued in the southern and central parts of the country. Within months, the coalition government had gone from holding about 70% of south-central Somalia's conflict zones, territory which it had inherited from the previous Yusuf administration, to losing control of over 80% of the disputed territory to the Islamist insurgents.[75]

Former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo)'s technocratic administration enacted numerous security reforms.

In April 2009, donors at a UN-sponsored conference pledged over $250 million to help improve security in the country. The funds were earmarked for AMISOM and supporting Somalia's security, including the build-up of a security force of 6,000 members as well as an augmented police force of 10,000 men.[76] In June 2009, the Somali military received 40 tonnes worth of arms and ammunition from the U.S. government to assist it in combating the insurgency.[77]

In November 2010, a new technocratic government was elected to office, which enacted numerous reforms. In its first 50 days in office, the new administration completed its first monthly payment of stipends to government soldiers, and aimed to complete a full biometric register for the security forces within a window of four months.[78] By August 2011, the new government and its AMISOM allies had managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants.[79]

In October 2011, following a weekend preparatory meeting between Somali and Kenyan military officials in the town of Dhobley,[80] a coordinated operation between the Somali Armed Forces and the Kenya Defence Forces began against the Al-Shabaab group of insurgents in southern Somalia.[81][82] The mission was officially led by the Somali army, with the Kenyan forces providing a support role.[82] In early June 2012, Kenyan troops were formally integrated into AMISOM.[83] According to China Daily, regional analysts expected the additional AU troop reinforcements to help the Somali authorities gradually expand their territorial control.[84]

In January 2012, Somali government forces and their AMISOM allies launched offensives on Al-Shabaab's last foothold on the northern outskirts of Mogadishu.[85] The following month, Somali forces fighting alongside AMISOM seized Baidoa from the insurgent group.[86] By June 2012, the allied forces had also captured El Bur,[87] Afgooye,[88] Afmadow,[89] and Balad.[90]

Federal period

The Federal Government of Somalia was established in August/September 2012. On 6 March 2013, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2093 was passed. The resolution lifted the purchase ban on light weapons for a provisional period of one year, but retained restrictions on the procurement of heavy arms such as surface-to-air missiles, howitzers and cannons.[51]

On 13 March 2013, Dahir Adan Elmi was appointed Chief of Army at a transfer ceremony in Mogadishu, where he replaced Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini. Abdirisaq Khalif Hussein was appointed as Elmi's new Deputy Chief of Army.[91]

In August 2013, Federal Government of Somalia officials and Jubaland regional representatives signed an agreement in Addis Ababa brokered by the Government of Ethiopia, which in part stipulates that all Jubaland security elements will be integrated into the central command of the Somali National Army. Additionally, under the terms of the accord, the Juba Interim Administration will command the regional police.[92]

In early March 2014, Somali security forces and AMISOM troops launched an intensified military operation to remove Al-Shabaab from the remaining areas in southern Somalia under its control.[93] According to Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, the government subsequently launched stabilization efforts in the newly liberated areas, which included Rab Dhuure, Hudur, Wajid and Burdhubo. However, there were continuing concerns that not enough was being done to revitalise and secure the newly liberated areas. By March 26, the allied forces had liberated ten towns within the month, including Qoryoley and El Buur.[94][95] UN Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay described the military advance as the most significant and geographically extensive offensive since AU troops began operations in 2007.[96]

In August 2014, the Somali government launched Operation Indian Ocean.[97] On 1 September 2014, a U.S. drone strike carried out as part of the broader mission killed Al-Shabaab leader Moktar Ali Zubeyr.[98] U.S. authorities hailed the raid as a major symbolic and operational loss for Al-Shabaab, and the Somali government offered a 45-day amnesty to all moderate members of the militant group.[99]

In October 2014, Federal Government officials signed an agreement in Garowe with Puntland, which said that the Federal and Puntland authorities will work to form an integrated national army.[100] In April 2015, another bilateral treaty stipulated that Puntland would contribute 3,000 troops to the Somali National Army.[101] In May 2015, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the heads of the Puntland, Jubaland and Interim South West Administrations signed a seven-point agreement in Garowe authorizing the immediate deployment of 3,000 troops from Puntland for the Somali National Army.[102] The leaders also agreed to integrate soldiers from the other regional states into the SNA.[103]

Somali National Army from 2008

Training and facilities

Brigadier General Dahir Adan Elmi, Chief of Defence Force, while meeting with Commander, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in 2013

In November 2009, the European Union announced its intention to train two Somali battalions (around 2,000 troops), which would complement other training missions and bring the total number of better-trained Somalian soldiers to 6,000.[104] The two battalions were expected to be ready by August 2011.[105] In April 2011, 1,000 recruits completed training in Uganda as a part of the agreement with the EU.[106]

Powerful vested interests and corrupt commanders were, as of February 2011, the largest obstacle to reforming the army. Some newly delivered weaponry was sold by officers. The International Crisis Group also said that AMISOM's efforts at assisting in formalizing the military's structure and providing training to the estimated 8,000 SNA soldiers were problematic. Resistance continued to the establishment of an effective chain of command, logical military formations and a credible troop roster. Although General Mohamed Gelle Kahiye, the respected former army chief, attempted to instill reforms, he was marginalized and eventually dimissed.[107]

In August 2011, as part of the European Union Training Mission Somalia (EUTM Somalia), 900 Somali soldiers graduated from the Bihanga Military Training School in the Ibanda District of Uganda.[108][109] 150 personnel from the EU took part in the training process, which trained around 2,000 Somali troops per year.[109] In May 2012, 603 Somali army personnel completed training at the facility. They were the third batch of Somali nationals to be trained there under the auspices of EUTM Somalia.[110] In total, the EU mission had trained 3,600 Somali soldiers, before permanently transferring all of its advisory, mentoring and training activities to Mogadishu in December 2013.[111]

In September 2011, President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed laid down the foundation for a new military camp for the army in the Jazeera District of Mogadishu. The $3.2 million construction project was funded by the EU and was expected to take six months to complete.[112]

In June 2013, Egyptian engineers arrived to build new headquarters for the Somalia Ministry of Defence.[113]

In February 2014, EUTM Somalia began its first "Train the Trainers" programme at the Jazeera Training Camp in Mogadishu. 60 Somali National Army soldiers that had been previously trained by EUTM in Uganda would take part in a four-week refresher course on infantry techniques and procedures, including international humanitarian law and military ethics. The training would be conducted by 16 EU trainers. Following the course's completion, the Somali soldiers would be qualified as instructors to then train SNA recruits, with mentoring provided by EUTM Somalia personnel.[114] A team of EUTM Somalia advisors also started offering strategic advice to the Somali Ministry of Defence and General Staff. Additionally, capacity building, advice and specific mentoring with regard to security sector development and training are envisioned for 2014.[115]

In February 2014, Chief of Staff Brigadier General Dahir Adan Elmi announced that Somalia's Ministry of Defence began holding military training inside the country for the first time, with Somali instructors now teaching courses to units that joined the armed forces. He also indicated that SNA leaders had created new numbered units for the army, and that the soldiers were slated to have their respective name and unit placed on their uniform. Additionally, Elmi stated that the military had implemented a new biometric registration system, wherein each recently trained and armed soldier is photographed and fingerprinted.[116] By the end of 2014, 17,000 national army soldiers and police officers had registered for the new biometric remuneration system.[117] 13,829 SNA soldiers and 5,134 Somali Police Force officials were biometrically registered in the system as of May 2015.[118]

In July 2014, the governments of the United States and France announced that they would start providing training to the Somali National Army.[119] According to U.S. Defense Department officials, American military advisers are also stationed in Somalia.[120]

In September 2014, 20 Somalian federal soldiers began training courses in Djibouti, which were organized by the government of Djibouti.[121]

In September 2014, a Somali government delegation led by Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed attended an international conference in London hosted by the British government, which centered on rebuilding the Somali National Army and strengthening the security sector in Somalia. Ahmed presented to the participants his administration's plan for the development of Somalia's military, as well as fiscal planning, human rights protection, arms embargo compliance, and ways to integrate regional militias. The summit also aimed to increase financial support for the Somali military. British Prime Minister David Cameron in turn indicated that the meeting sought to outline a long-term security plan to strengthen Somalia's army, police and judiciary.[122]

In March 2015, the Federal Cabinet agreed to establish a new commission tasked with overseeing the nationalization and integration of security forces in the country.[123] In April 2015, the Commission on Regional Militia Integration presented its plan for the formal integration of regional forces, with UNSOM providing support and strategic advice.[118]

In April 2015, the federal Ministry of Defence launched its new Guulwade Plan (Victory Plan), which provides a roadmap for long-term development of the military. It was formulated with technical support from UNSOM. The framework stipulates that international partners are slated to provide capacity-building as well as assistance for joint operations to 10,900 Somali national army troops, with these units drawn from various regions in the country.[118]

As of April 2015, UNSOM coordinates international security sector assistance for the SNA in accordance with the Somali federal government's priority areas. It also provides advice on recruitment of female officers, strictures on age appropriate military personnel, legal frameworks vis-a-vis the defence institutions, and a development strategy for the Ministry of Defence. Beginning in the month, the US government also funded the payment of 9,495 army allowances.[118]

In May 2015, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud officially opened a new military training camp in Mogadishu. Construction of the center began in 2014 in conjunction with the government of the United Arab Emirates. Situated in the Hodan district, it is one of several new military academies in the country.[124]

As of May 2015, the federal government in conjunction with UNSOM was working toward establishing a comprehensive, international standards and obligations-compliant ammunition and weapons management system. To this end, capacity-building for the physical management of arms and bookkeeping was being developed, and new storage facilities and armouries for weapons and explosives were being constructed.[118]

Strength and units

In August 2011, the TFG announced the creation of a new Special Force. Consisting of 300 trained soldiers, the unit was initially mandated with protecting relief shipments and distribution centers in Mogadishu. Besides helping to stabilize the city, the protection force is also tasked with combating banditry and other vices.[125]

In March 2013 there were six trained brigades around Mogadishu, two of which were deployed at the time. Each brigade includes three to six battalions of around 1000 soldiers apiece, or 18,000 to 36,000 troops in total. Of these, an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 soldiers are currently in service.[126]

According to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, the six SNA brigades around Mogadishu were as of July 2013 largely composed of officers from various Hawiye sub-clans, with some Marehan-Darod and minorities also present in certain units. Of the brigades, five primarily consisted of Abgaal, Murosade and Hawadle soldiers. In February 2013 the 2nd Brigade was under the command of Brigadier General Abdullahi Osman Agey. The 3rd Brigade over the same period comprised 840 fighters, most of whom belong to the Hawiye-Habar Gidir/Ayr clan. The unit was around 30% to 50% smaller in size than the other five brigades that are garrisoned in the larger Banaadir region. Led by General Mohamed Roble Jimale 'Gobale', it occupied an area outside of Mogadishu and Merka and along the Afgoye corridor. The Monitoring Group reported that many 3rd Brigade fighters had been drawn from around 300-strong militias controlled by Yusuf Mohamed Siyaad 'Indha Adde', a close associate of Jimale and the former Eritrean-backed chief of defence for the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia-Asmara. However, Siyaad was by then no longer part of the SNA's official military structures.[127]

As of May–June 2014, the army reportedly consists of an estimated 20,000 soldiers. Of these, the majority are men, with around 1,500 female SNA officials.[2]

The 5th and 6th Brigades have played a pivotal role in the battle against Al-Shabaab, including in Mogadishu and Afgoye. With a post-training drop-out rate of around 10%, the vast majority of the EUTM-trained soldiers have continued to serve in the Somalia national security forces after their initial period of training abroad, and their units have remained intact. The standard of the EUTM-trained troops is regarded as being high relative to the brigades around Mogadishu. Overall, the Somali armed forces' combat capability has strengthened due in part to having both more combat experience and international support, including training, leadership and planning facilitation.[128]

In February 2014, the Federal Government concluded a six-month training course for the first Commandos, Danab ("Lightning"), since 1991.[129] The unit is modeled after the U.S. Rangers.[120] Training had been jointly carried out by Somali military experts and U.S. government personnel. The Army Chief of Staff Brigadier General Dahir Adan Elmi said that the new Commandos hail from different parts of the county. The Commandos will have full military equipment and will be headquartered at the former Balli Dogle air base (Walaweyn District, Lower Shebelle).[129] The training of the first Danab unit had begun in October 2013, and included 150 soldiers. As of July 2014, training of the second unit was underway. According to General Elmi, the special training is geared toward both urban and rural environments, and is aimed at preparing the soldiers for guerrilla warfare and all other types of modern military operations. Former Minister of Defence Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi also indicated that the soldiers were receiving training for intelligence gathering and rescue operations. Additionally, Elmi said that a total of 570 Commandos are expected to have completed training by U.S. security personnel by the end of 2014.[120]


Somalia has signed military cooperation agreements with Turkey in May 2010,[130] February 2014,[131] and January 2015.[132]

In February 2012, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and Italian Defence Minister Gianpaolo Di Paola agreed that Italy would assist the Somali military as part of the National Security and Stabilization Plan (NSSP),[133] an initiative designed to strengthen and professionalize the national security forces.[134] The agreement would include training soldiers and rebuilding the Somali army.[133] In November 2014, the Federal Parliament approved a new defense and cooperation treaty with Italy, which the Ministry of Defence had signed earlier in the year. The agreement includes training and equipping of the army by Italy.[135]

In November 2014, Somalia signed a military cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates.[136]

Army equipment

Army equipment, 1981

The following were the Somali National Army's major weapons in 1981:[5]

A T-55, one of several SNA tanks.
A Somali National Army BTR-60 armoured personnel carrier.
Type Description Country of Manufacture Inventory
Centurion Main battle tank; 105mm gun United Kingdom 40
T-34 Medium tank; 85mm gun Soviet Union 60
T-54/55 Main battle tank; 100mm quick firing gun; most transferred 1974–1976 Soviet Union 40
Armoured personnel carriers
BTR-40 9-passenger wheeled APC Soviet Union 50
BTR-50 12-passenger tracked APC Soviet Union
BTR-60 10-12-passenger wheeled APC Soviet Union
BTR-152 12-passenger wheeled APC Soviet Union 150
Fiat 6614 10-passenger wheeled APC Italy 200
Fiat 6616 Armored car; 20mm gun Italy
130mm Field gun, towed Soviet Union 80
122mm Field gun, towed Soviet Union
122mm Howitzer, towed Soviet Union
100mm Anti-tank gun/field gun, towed Soviet Union 150
85mm Anti-tank gun, towed Soviet Union
76mm Divisional gun, towed Soviet Union
120mm Heavy mortar Soviet Union n/a
82mm Medium mortar Soviet Union n/a
106mm B-11 recoilless rifle China n/a
Anti-aircraft guns
100 mm air defense gun KS-19 Towed Soviet Union 250
57 mm AZP S-60 Towed Soviet Union
37mm M1939 Towed Soviet Union
23mm ZU-23-2-type, towed Soviet Union
MILAN Surface-to-surface, man-portable, anti-tank guided weapon France/West Germany 100

Army equipment, 1989

Abandoned Somali tanks in Mogadishu, discovered by U.S. Army troops on 1 December 1993.

Previous arms acquisitions included the following equipment, much of which was unserviceable ca. June 1989:[47] 293 main battle tanks (30 Centurion from Kuwait[137] 123 M47 Patton, 30 T-34, 110 T-54/55 from various sources). Other armoured fighting vehicles included 10 M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks, 30 BRDM-2 and 15 Panhard AML-90 armored cars (formerly owned by Saudi Arabia). The IISS estimated in 1989 that there were 474 armoured personnel carriers, including 64 BTR-40/BTR-50/BTR-60, 100 BTR-152 wheeled armored personnel carriers, 310 Fiat 6614 and 6616s, and that BMR-600s had been reported. The IISS estimated that there were 210 towed artillery pieces (8 M-1944 100mm, 100 M-56 105mm, 84 M-1938 122mm, and 18 M198 155 mm towed howitzers). Other equipment reported by the IISS included 82mm and 120mm mortars, 100 Milan and BGM-71 TOW anti-tank guided missiles, rocket launchers, recoilless rifles, and a variety of Soviet air defence guns of 20mm, 23mm, 37mm, 40mm, 57mm, and 100mm calibre. As of 1 June 1989, the IISS also estimated that Somali army surface-to-air defense equipment included 40 SA-2 Guideline missiles (operational status uncertain), 10 SA-3 Goa, and 20 SA-7 surface-to-air missiles.[47]

Army equipment, 2012-2015

In May 2012, over thirty-three vehicles were donated by the U.S. government to the SNA. The vehicles include 16 Magirus Trucks, 4 Hilux Pickups, 6 Land Cruiser Pickups, 1 Water Tanker, and 6 Water Trailers.[138] On April 9, 2013, the U.S. government approved the provision of defense articles and services by the American authorities to the Somali Federal Government.[139] It handed over 15 vehicles to the new Commandos in March 2014.[140]

In April 2013, Djibouti presented the SNA with 15 armoured military vehicles. The equipment was part of a larger consignment of 25 military trucks and 25 armoured military vehicles.[141]

The same month, the Italian government handed over 54 armored and personnel carrier vehicles to the army at a ceremony in Mogadishu.[142]

As of April 2015, the Ministry of Defence's Guulwade Plan identifies the equipment and weaponry requirements of the army.[118]

Somali Air Force

The Somali Air Force (SAF) was originally named the Somali Air Corps (SAC), and was established with Italian aid in the early 1960s. It emerged from the Italian "Corpo di Sicurezza della Somalia" that existed between 1950 and 1960, during the trusteeship period just prior to independence. The SAF's original equipment included eight North American F-51D Mustangs, Douglas C-47s and MiG 23s, which remained in service until 1968. The air force operated most of its aircraft from bases near Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Galkayo. An air defence force equipped with Soviet surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns was in existence by 1992.[143]

By January 1991 the air force was in ruins.[8] In 2012, Italy offered to help rebuild the air force.[133]

According to CQ Press' Worldwide Government Directory with Intergovernmental Organizations, Somalia's reconstituted air force as of 2013 is led by Maj. Gen. Nur Ilmi Adawe.[1]

Somali Navy

Two Somali Osa-class missile boats during the 1983 Operation Bright Star.

The Somali Navy was formed after independence in 1960. Prior to 1991, it participated in several joint exercises with the United States, Great Britain and Canada. It subsequently disbanded following the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia during that year.[10] In the 2000s (decade), the central government began the process of re-establishing the Somali Navy.[144]

On June 30, 2012, the United Arab Emirates announced a contribution of $1 million toward enhancing Somalia's naval security. Boats, equipment and communication gear necessary for the rebuilding of the coast guard would be bought. A central operations naval command was also planned to be set up in Mogadishu.[145]


Minister of Defence

Name Tenure Affiliation
Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini 27 January 2015 – Present Federal Government of Somalia (FGS)
Mohamed Sheikh Hassan 17 January 2014 – 27 January 2015 Federal Government of Somalia (FGS)
Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi 4 November 2012 – 17 January 2014 Federal Government of Somalia (FGS)
Hussein Arab Isse 20 July 2011 – 4 November 2012 Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi 12 November 2010 – 20 July 2011 Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
Mohamed Abdi Mohamed 21 February 2009 – 12 November 2010 Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
Aden Abdullahi Nur 1986 – 1988 Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP)
Muhammad Ali Samatar 1980 – 1986 Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP)

Chief of Army

Name Took command Left command
Maj. Gen Ismail Qasim Naji 14 April 2005[146] 10 February 2007[63]
Maj. Gen Abdullahi Ali Omar 10 February 2007[63] 21 July 2007[147]
Brig. Gen Salah Hassan Jama 21 July 2007[147] 11 June 2008[148]
Maj. Gen Said Dheere Mohamed 11 June 2008[148] 15 May 2009[149]
Maj. Gen Yusuf Osman Dhumal 15 May 2009[149] 10 December 2009[150]
Brig. Gen Mohamed Gelle Kahiye 6 December 2009[150] 18 September 2010[151]
Brig. Gen Ahmed Jimale Gedi 18 September 2010 28 March 2011
Maj. Gen Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini 28 March 2011[152] 13 March 2013[153]
Brig. Gen Dahir Adan Elmi 13 March 2013[153] late 2015

Military ranks

In July 2014, General Dahir Adan Elmi announced the completion of a review of the Somali National Army ranks. The SNA in conjunction with the Ministry of Defense is also slated to standardize the martial ranking system and eliminate any unauthorized promotions as part of a broader reform.[154]

As of 1977, Somalia's army ranks were as follows:[5]

The Somali Armed Forces' military ranks, 1982.
Level Rank Commission Notables
1 Lieutenant General Officer Muhammad Ali Samatar
2 Major General Officer Daud Abdulle Hirsi, Siad Barre, Xuseen Kulmiye Afrax, Abdullah Mohamed Fadil, Cabdulle Barre Qalaaye, Mohamud Muse Hersi, Nuur Darawish, Salaad Gabeyre Kediye, Axmed Maxamuud Cadde (Qoorweyne), Maxamed Sheekh Cismaan, Abuukar Gacal, Abubakar Sulaleey
3 Brigadier General Officer Ali Matan Hashi, Abdullahi Ahmed Irro, Mohamed Farah Aidid, Muse Hassan Sheikh Sayid Abdulle, Dahir Adan Elmi, Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini, Axmed Sahal Ali (Axmed Cariiri), Abuukar Aftooje, Cismaan Badmaceeye, Isaaq Iidow Raagge, Maxamed Cismaan Faarax (Gaarac)
4 Colonel Officer Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Mohamed Osman Irro, Jibrell Ali Salad
5 Lieutenant colonel Officer Salaad Gabeyre Kediye
6 Major Officer
7 Captain Officer
8 First Lieutenant Officer
9 Second Lieutenant Officer
10 Chief Warrant Officer NCO
11 Warrant Officer III NCO
12 Warrant Officer II NCO
13 Warrant Officer I NCO
14 Sergeant NCO
15 Corporal NCO
16 Private First Class NCO


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Further reading

  • Brian Crozier, The Soviet Presence in Somalia, Institute for the Study of Conflict, London, 1975
  • Irving Kaplan, Area Handbook for Somalia, American University, 1969 and 1977.
  • Nilsson, Claes, and Johan Norberg, "European Union Training Mission Somalia: A Mission Assessment", Swedish National Defence Research Institute, 2014.

External links

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.