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Building a nascent army in a multinational context
Maj Ben Kemsley
Primacy of political purpose. With no clear international political consensus towards Somalia until 2017, it is hardly surprising that Williams was so damning in his appraisal of the state of the SNA. However, following the appointment
of Hassan Ali Khaire as Somali Prime Minister
in 2017, progress has been more evident. At the 2017 London Conference2, it was agreed that Security Sector Reform (SSR) must take place. Five aspects to reform were identified, and termed the ‘Comprehensive Approach to Security (CAS) strands’3. Strand 2 (security)
was subdivided into strand 2A (military), strand 2B (police) and strand 2C (law & justice). While national priorities and caveats remain, there
is an agreed political purpose to what the IC
is attempting to achieve in Somalia. However, grand strategic vision from the IC is but one part. Primacy of political purpose within Somalia has also increased; the national security architecture is developing, and political elites are increasingly being sewn into the fabric of state-building. This, linked to unity of effort, is decisive. Without Somali political primacy, the aspirations of the IC remain both aspirational and ambiguous.
Unity of effort. There is no coalition in Somalia; rather there is cooperation between international partners, and the CAS strand approach has resulted in national sponsorship of various aspects of SSR. The EU, Germany and the
UK lead on policing, while the USA, in close partnership with international partners, leads on military support. Along with internationally agreed political purpose came direction and coherence. Increasingly coherent engagement by core stakeholders (including the EU, UN, US, UK and Turkey) has been fundamental to delivering this change. Simply being able to focus activity around the CAS architecture has
2 London Conference: Somalia, May 2017.
3 Strand 1: African Union Mission in Somalia
(AMISOM) Operations, Strand 2: Security institution development, Strand 3: Community Recovery and Extension of State Authority and Accountability (CRESTA/A), Strand 4: Counter Violence and Extremism (CVE), Strand 5: Coherence.
enabled progress. The strand 2A (military) team quickly got to work defining how the SNA should be organised (right-sizing the SNA; defining equipment holdings), and over time began to coordinate resource sharing, where donors could target assistance at identified capability gaps. Further, training was coordinated and assured, with capabilities and standards agreed. Subsequently, the ability to plan and prepare the SNA for operations, in terms of advisor support to planning and delivery of operations, has been significantly enhanced by the unity of effort within the IC. The African Union, the Federal Government of Somalia, the Federal Member States, the SNA and the African Union Mission
in Somalia (AMISOM) all work very closely with support from the EU Training Mission (EUTM), the USA, Turkey and the UK.
Understand the context. Understanding the importance of clan dynamics, religion and
social diasporas has been vital to managing conflict sensitivity. Work in Somalia has been significantly complicated by clan dynamics,
but attempting to effect change head-on is insensitive towards Somali values and customs. However, mitigating social divides by binding clans together through education, economic development and political reconciliation, has reduced the likelihood, if not the impact of future conflict. This has required a cross-government approach; while at times frustrating, it is nonetheless essential, because an insurgency cannot be defeated through military means alone. Equally, mobilising the support of the educated Somali diaspora has been pivotal
to success. After 15 years of state failure, literacy and numeracy has significantly reduced amongst the domestic population; without these fundamental skills, the organic regeneration of state-enabling professions, such as medicine, engineering and communications, is practically impossible.
Foster partner nation governance and capacity and operate in accordance with the law.
 THE COMPLEXITIES OF STABILISATION Operations became a theme throughout ACSC 22. Major Ben Kemsley of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment serves amongst several past graduates of ACSC, and
writes from British Forces Somalia on the challenges of rebuilding the Somali National Army, and the significance of stabilisation principles in cohering international efforts.
The Somali National Army (SNA) was once recognised amongst the most capable in Africa. Formed in 1960 as part of the post-colonial independence process, it was well equipped, trained and battle-hardened through regional conflict, notably with Ethiopia. However, for most of its existence, the SNA has been dependent on international support, and plagued by clan rivalry. Even when not in open warfare, other regional state actors have fuelled unrest in Somalia by exploiting clan dynamics; the complexity of which is compounded by some of the worst colonial-era mismatching of state structures with indigenous population dispositions that can be found.
The overthrow of President Barre in January 1991 led to a power vacuum in which the Somali civil war saw armed groups compete for influence in the absence of a central administration until the formation of the Transitional National Government in 2000. As such it is perhaps unsurprising that Paul Williams, in his criticism of activity between 2008 and 2018, cited the failure to rebuild the SNA as resultant from the interrelated
effects of political, contextual and operational
challenges.1 Compounding the issues arising
from clan dynamics, Williams proposed that
political challenges revolved around the
disjointed interests and lack of coordination of
international actors and Somali elites, and a lack
of focus on institution-building. He also noted
that operational challenges were rooted in an
attempt to build an army while simultaneously
fighting a war, and an inability to generate
specialist capabilities. The SNA, plagued by
warlord militias and the integration of state
paramilitary forces, required formal coherence. “ By 2017 the EU had trained approximately 5,000
SNA, the UAE around 15,000, and the Ethiopians This, linked
  17,000; however, monitoring the effectiveness of trained SNA was non-existent. A multitude of actors all ran support programmes, but without any coherence.
The challenges Williams identified remain as pertinent today as they were in 2008. But what has changed? Building a nascent army in Somalia has thrown many obstacles into the paths of both Somalis and the international community (IC); but gradually, with adherence to the principles of stabilisation operations, progress is being made. As ever, being able to operate to clear political direction, with coordinated activity across all actors, remains paramount. The following paragraphs capture key lessons from the Somali mission to date.
1 Paul Williams, “Building the Somali National Army: Anatomy of a failure, 2008-2018”. The Journal of Strategic Studies.
to unity of effort, is
decisive.... ◆◆◆

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