Leadership: Special Forces In Mogadishu


September 7, 2011: In Somalia, the TNG (Transitional National Government) has selected the best trained and most reliable troops from its small army, to be part of the Special Forces (SF). These troops will be used to guard aid shipments (most of them food) and the many refugee camps that have been set up around Mogadishu.

As these camps were set up over the last few months, some pro-TNG gunmen were seen robbing refugees, as some al Shabaab members have done on the Kenyan border (sort of an "exit tax"). There are over 50 refugee camps around Mogadishu, holding over 400,000 people, while the camps in Kenya hold nearly 500,000. The number of people fleeing to these camps is increasing. In response, aid groups, including a major effort by Gulf Arab nations, are moving more food to Mogadishu. But the TNG was told that if this aid was plundered, it would quickly stop. Thus the formation of the Special Forces unit, even though it means taking high-quality troops from other TNG battalions. At first, the SF unit will only have a few hundred troops. It will be expanded as qualified personnel are available. EU trainers will watch the SF troops closely, to help them in areas where some additional training is needed, and to watch out for corrupt activities. 

The battle for Mogadishu is now over, although bandits and a few die-hard al Shabaab gunmen are still around, causing the occasional gunfight and bombing. The TNG has over 15,000 trained troops, untrained militiamen and AU (African Union) peacekeepers in the city. Half the force consists of the professional AU troops. In direct combat with AU troops, al Shabaab usually lost, badly and quickly. Most of the offensive operations were carried out by the better trained, armed and led AU troops. The TNG forces spent more time guarding neighborhoods. This was often dangerous. Al Shabaab liked to snipe at the enemy, or just launch hit and run attacks (roll up on foot or in vehicles, empty your AK-47 magazines and fire some RPGs, then quickly leave).

Two months ago, the EU (European Union) extended its TNG training mission in Uganda for a second year. There, 150 EU personnel train 2,000 Somali volunteers a year. Training is also provided for NCOs and officers, and this made possible the creation of an elite Special Forces unit. It will be easier to provide the SF unit with experienced and trained troops, than it will be to keep the outfit corruption-free.



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