Puntland wakes up to futility of parallel forces


Puntland State President Said Abdullahi Deni faces a formidable challenge to his security reform agenda.

Garowe (PP News Desk) — In January 2009, when MPs elected Abdirahman Farole the fourth President of Puntland, he sought to address ungovernability resulted by parallel security forces . The former Puntland Intelligence Service, a security outfit funded by a foreign country, was unaccountable to Garowe Presidency.

Nearly thirteen years after Farole’s security reform campaign, a similar problem faces President Said Abdulahi Deni whose decision to sack Puntland Security Forces Commander remains unenforceable. Mohamud Osman Abdullahi, the PSF Commander, claims that Puntland State government had politicised the force that keeps Al-shabaab terrorists at bay. A senior PSF official held a press conference in Bosaso and justified the decision by the senior commanders to vacate Galgala and Sugure frontlines.

Major General Yasin Dhere: “PSF violated the law when its forces have vacated the frontlines.”

“To intimidate us Puntland government deployed troops to cut links between our forces at the frontlines and in Bosaso. Our base in Bosaso is under siege. For those reasons we have decided to leave the frontlines where we were fighting Al-shabaab” said the PSF officer.

The Commander of Puntland Defence Forces Major General Yasin Omar Dhere accused with PSF leadership of destabilising Bosaso. “PSF forces are influencing security forces to mutiny. It is illegal to vacate the frontlines” said General Yasin.

PSF is funded by a foreign country, and claims to operate outside Puntland political system.

In a statement released by PSF, it criticised Puntland State government for political expediency to undermine a force “that is impartial in Puntland politics”. “PSF has the mandate to fight terrorists. It does not accept the logic of security operation by groups that collaborated with the enemy” reads the statement.

Mohamed Ismail Siibad, a Puntland Parliament MP and Chairman of Mustaqbal, a political association, called on Puntland State government to ease the political and security pressures on Bosaso, “a district that has been politically and economically marginalised.”

Heated rhetoric between different sectors of Puntland security apparatus may lead to instability and clashes.

Puntland’s security forces are said to be fracturing along clan lines.

Opposing views…

Mediating traditional elders released these points in order to bring the PSF issue to an end.

The most important point is the ownership of the weapons and operations base of the PSF which the elders ruled for Diyaano family.

Deni’s administration rejected the points, specially the ownership of the weapons and base of the PSF.

NAIROBI—A Somali commando unit trained by Central Intelligence Agency operatives and U.S. Navy SEALs has become so entangled in local political power struggles that it has ceased operations against the Islamist militants it was created to fight.

Until last year, the 600-strong Puntland Security Force had reported directly to U.S. forces and was largely independent of Somali government control. But now the unit, the main force combating Islamic State’s Somali affiliate, ISIS-Somalia, has abandoned the front lines and returned to its headquarters in the northeastern port of Bosaso, overlooking the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. officials and Somalis familiar with the situation.

The troops have dug defensive positions around their headquarters building in a standoff with forces loyal to the state president of Puntland, a semiautonomous region, who is trying to bring the unit under his control.

The unit has also halted missions against al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s local franchise and the most powerful insurgent group in Somalia.

“Already they have vacated all of their front-line positions, and ISIS and al-Shabaab have free rein to move around and expand—nobody’s stopping them,” said Mohamed Mubarak, a Somali political analyst and executive director of an anticorruption charity, marqaati.

U.S. military and diplomatic officials are worried about the impasse, which undermines the post-Sept. 11 American strategy of enlisting elite local forces to fight extremist groups in Africa, the Mideast, South Asia and elsewhere around the world.

One of our key concerns for this kind of intragovernmental fight is the ability of ISIS-Somalia, especially in Puntland, and al-Shabaab across the country, to generate forces and expand operations,” said a U.S. official familiar with the situation.

Somalia is one of the oldest fronts in the sprawling U.S. campaign against Islamist militants that followed the Sept. 11 hijackings.

The CIA began building up the Puntland force in 2002, amid concerns that al Qaeda elements were operating in East Africa.

President George W. Bush deployed a small number of U.S. troops to Somalia in 2007 to combat the rise of al-Shabaab. President Barack Obama ordered drone strikes against the group’s leaders.

Initially, President Donald Trump intensified airstrikes and built the U.S. presence in the country to 500 Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, Marine Corps Raiders and other troops. But the month before he left office, Mr. Trump withdrew American forces and relocated them to neighboring bases in Djibouti and Kenya.

U.S. commandos make periodic trips into Somalia to train local forces.

The Pentagon has been reviewing U.S. troop deployments around the world for almost a year. President Biden has yet to announce whether he will send American forces back into Somalia on a permanent basis.

The U.S. alliance with the unit that became the Puntland Security Force began shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. At first, CIA agents paid and trained the fighters—“two Americans and a bag of cash,” in the words of one Puntland Security Force veteran. About a decade ago, Navy SEALs took over the mission of training and supervising the unit.

The Americans taught combat driving, sniper, reconnaissance and other skills. The U.S. sent FBI agents to teach crime-scene analysis.

U.S. commanders considered the Puntland Security Force one of its most reliable and effective allies in a chaotic country riven along clan, political, regional and ideological fissures.

“This is one of the few professional forces in all of Somalia,” said Mr. Mubarak.

After the U.S. withdrawal last year, however, the unit’s status was ambiguous. It was no longer an American asset, but it didn’t exactly belong to the central government in Mogadishu or the state government in Puntland either.

The Americans took away the unit’s U.S.-made rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns and night-vision gear, and left it with U.S.-supplied weapons from the former Eastern Bloc countries, according to the Puntland Security Force veteran.

“They armed. They equipped. They trained heavily. And they left,” he said. “Since they left it’s been like a vacuum.”

In some ways the unit resembles a family business. The majority of soldiers are from the same Osman Mohamud sub-clan. The original commander gave way to his son, who in turn gave way to his brother, the latest commander, Brig. Gen. Mohamud Osman, known by the nickname Diyaano.

After the U.S. pulled its support, the family picked up some of the unit’s expenses, the unit veteran said.

Unlike some other military outfits in Somalia, the Puntland Security Force largely steered clear of politics and focused on fighting Islamic State and al-Shabaab.

That changed, however, on Nov. 24, when Said Abdullahi Deni, the president of Puntland state, issued a decree dismissing Gen. Mohamud. Mr. Deni named an ally as the new commander, a man unpopular in the ranks of the Puntland Defense Force, according to the unit veteran.

Gen. Mohamud refused to surrender his command. On Nov. 26 the Puntland Security Force issued a statement suggesting that the soldiers didn’t trust the man Mr. Deni wanted to put in charge. “We will continue to defend our people and our land,” the statement said.

Through an intermediary, Gen. Mohamud declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Deni flooded the streets with troops loyal to him. “Deni brought in a lot of firepower to Bosaso to threaten them basically,” said Mr. Mubarak.

Asked for comment, Mr. Deni’s spokesman referred The Wall Street Journal to the president’s written statements.

Gen. Mohamud responded by summoning hundreds of his own troops from their outposts, where they had been fighting al-Shabaab and Islamic State, according to people close to the situation. They dug foxholes around the headquarters building. Schools in the neighborhood closed for a few days amid escalating tensions, although there have been no reports of actual violence, according to the people familiar with the developments.

As the standoff continued into this week, half a dozen clan elders—influential figures in Somali society—stepped in to mediate.

On Tuesday, the elders announced their proposed solution: Gen. Mohamud would give up his post, but retain the unit’s weapons, vehicles and headquarters building. The government should provide back pay to the soldiers and personal security to Gen. Mohamud.

This time it was the president who balked, issuing a statement rejecting the elders’ proposal and calling upon Gen. Mohamud to surrender his command, his weapons, his vehicles and his headquarters. The unit, the government official said, belonged to the state, not the commander.

“The government of Puntland is strongly committed to safeguarding the peace and stability of Puntland with respect to the rule of law and constitutional legitimacy,” Mr. Deni’s administration said.

American officials have watched the standoff with concern. The chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu spoke twice with Mr. Deni, pressing him to find a peaceful way out of the impasse, according to a senior U.S. diplomat in Mogadishu.

“Generally we are urging that forces of any sort in Somalia refrain from getting involved in politics,” the senior U.S. diplomat said. “We urge all security forces to focus on fighting violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia.”

Live from Bosaso

And they wonder why international investors (P&O) are scared of Puntland/Bosaso/Somalia.

Maalintii labaad oo dagaal ka socdo Bosaso

Fighting has resumed for the 3rd night in Bosaso.

Reached by VOA Somali, the United States Africa Command said it did not have a formal relationship with the PSF and did not provide direct support to the PSF. AFRICOM described PSF as Puntland’s “most capable counterterrorism force” and said it was concerned about how the clashes could affect the PSF’s ability to fight multiple militant groups.

“Both al-Shabab and ISIS likely consider the PSF a substantial obstacle to gaining territory and revenue in Puntland and are likely closely monitoring the situation,” AFRICOM spokesperson Kelly Cahalan told VOA Somali. “We are concerned that these clashes will diminish the counterterrorism capabilities and focus of the PSF and provide these terrorist organizations with an opening to exploit.”

Experts in Somalia say the fighting in Puntland is yet another setback on fighting extremist groups.

“It’s very unfortunate that rather than fighting terrorism, Somali troops are yet again embroiled in avoidable political conflicts,” said security and terrorism expert Samira Gaid.

“This localized fighting takes away the necessary attention from anti-terror operations. Sustained offensive action against the terror group is needed in order to keep it on the back foot, but situations like these allow them the space to reorganize and operate.”

In October, the U.S. said it was reviewing its support for Danab following the unit’s participation in a battle in central Somalia against Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, a moderate religious group and former ally in the fight against al-Shabab extremists.

It only took 4 days of port shutdown for Deni to accept defeat. The state is running out of money.

In war, it is not only how many men and weapons you have, equally important is how you can feed that army and the fuel to run those weapons etc which come down to economy.