Home / news / The Turks in Somalia .. Will Ankara’s experiment in the face of conspiracies succeed?

The Turks in Somalia .. Will Ankara’s experiment in the face of conspiracies succeed?

On the seventh of October 2020, more than two hundred Somalis lined up on the grounds of the Turkish Military Training Center in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and behind them the flag of their country and the Turkish flag, taking the military oath in the local language, while surrounded by modern Turkish weapons. These were the ones enrolled in the new academic year 2020-2021 in the “Anatolia” military barracks, and they were the fifth batch of Somali infantry division forces that would graduate in this center.

Today, the East African country, with its strategic geographic location and large oil reserves, is a place where Ankara’s activities have expanded from providing humanitarian aid to economic investment to military cooperation in order to play an influential role regionally by being in important geopolitical points in the Middle East. The growing Turks in Africa, and in Somalia in particular, have presented them with several challenges, not the least of which is the outright hostility to the “youth” armed movement towards its interests, while the most dangerous of these challenges is the formation of an Egyptian-Sudanese-Israeli alliance aimed at undermining that influence. In the following report, we will address the stages of the development of Turkish relations. Somali, down to the challenges that Ankara faces in one of the most important countries in the Horn of Africa.

Ankara has sought to strengthen its influence in the Horn of Africa and in Somalia, especially since it launched in 2005 the year of “openness to Africa”, a year that was considered the major starting point towards strengthening the Turkish diplomatic and commercial presence in the African continent, especially in Somalia, which Ankara viewed as a major geopolitical center linking between The Gulf and Africa have strategic points, the most important of which is Bab al-Mandab, and as a country that possesses rich resources that can be invested and developed.

Historically, diplomatic relations between the two countries began in 1979 with the opening of Somali and Turkish embassies in both countries. Then the early 1990s formed a breakthrough when the Turkish Three-Star General “Cevik Bir” led a United Nations peace mission in Somalia between 1993-1994, but the pivotal year. In their relationship, it was 2011, when Somalis were suffering from famine (more than 3.2 million people were in need of urgent food relief at the time); Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to their country, which was exhausted at the time from the civil war as well, and Erdogan’s visit in August of the aforementioned year carried a Turkish boost for the Somalis by providing huge humanitarian aid and establishing large development projects such as building schools, providing scholarships and renovating demolished government buildings. After the civil war.

The value of the sums that Ankara has pumped into Somalia as aid reflects the extent of the Turkish interest in it. From 2011 to 2016, the Turks allocated nearly 400 million dollars in aid according to government figures, while bilateral trade between them grew from 6 million dollars in 2010 to 72 million dollars in the year In 2015, Ankara also provides 4.5 million dollars a month in direct support to the state budget. In early November, Turkey guaranteed part of Somalia’s debt to the International Monetary Fund by pledging to pump 2.4 million of its withdrawal assets into the bank. The currency of the IMF, “and this clearly means that Somalia’s debts to the Fund will be reduced from a number that reached 5.2 billion dollars by the end of 2018 to 3.7 billion dollars now, which means reducing the debt burden in a not small way, and thus greater economic growth potential.”

After years of humanitarian aid and direct support, Ankara found that it could be combined with the entry of Turkish companies into the Somali world of infrastructure rich with opportunities, and the Somalis found dealing with the Turks as investors less restrictive and conditional than dealing with traditional donors such as some Western countries and the International Monetary Fund, and as a result That is, the Turks won many infrastructure projects in Mogadishu, where Turkish companies run some of Somalia’s sea ports and major airports, and Turkish Airlines became the first international airline to arrive with direct flights to the Somali capital.

But the most important thing is that this confidence pushed the two sides towards more vital projects, such as building a military base in order to train Somali government soldiers in 2017, or the Turkish company, Favori LLC, taking over the management of Adam Adi International Airport in Mogadishu, which is the main airport of Somalia, after the recent crisis with the UAE that ran This airport before. In general, the year 2017 was an important turning point in Ankara’s relationship with Somalia after the occurrence of the Gulf crisis and the blockade of Qatar, which put the unstable country in the focus of the dispute, and the UAE accused it of siding with Qatar, and subsequently turned to support the separatists in Somaliland (Somaliland), In addition to the fact that the Somali Republic is the object of greed by regional aspirants, like any country that has a strategic location along the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

A Turkish military base to train Somali government soldiers in 2017

Ankara, which has good experience in military training, was able to cooperate with some countries of the African continent in this field, and Somalia was one of the most important of those countries. On the one hand, Somalia was and still needs to form a strong unified Somali army, and on the one hand Ankara still needed to strike a balance between the capabilities of soft power and its hard power in Somalia, to ensure a solid network that secures it a long-term role there. At the Ankara Center for Policy and Conflict Studies, “Ankasam”, in his speech to “Maidan”, Ankara “is trying through it to train and strengthen the security loopholes of the Somali army to have an impact on the internal Somali decision.”

As for the most prominent station for Ankara, it came in October of 2017, when it opened the largest military training base outside its territory, on an area of ​​4 square kilometers, in which Ankara pumped 50 million dollars to build that base in Mogadishu, and then it became “Camp Turkum” “An important place in recent years in which the Somali soldiers undergo basic training for nearly three months, then they are transferred by air to the commando center in the state of Sparta (western Turkey), which is considered one of the most important Turkish centers for graduating combat units, and at the center Somali recruits receive additional training for another three months, They undergo special operations training and “combating terrorism”, as well as urban warfare and commando training in the Turkish army, and with the end of the training program, the trainees return to the ranks of the Somali army to complete their military tasks. By last August, the Turkish base had trained about 15 to 16 thousand soldiers Somali, that is, almost a third of the Somali army, as training continues so far, taking into account caution and prevention due to the spread of the emerging “Covid-19” virus.

According to the above, and as soon as you take a closer look at the Turkish military training efforts, it becomes clear that the Somali officers receive training in the Turkish language, after undergoing an intensive language course, and they swear in this language the military oath alongside their mother tongue, and they celebrate their graduation in the training camp in a way that the Turkish Armed Forces celebrate The same, and they chant the traditional anthem of the Turkish Military Academy, and in this ceremony they commemorate the memory of the soldiers who fell in the Gallipoli (Çanakkale) defensive campaign against Britain, which is considered a milestone in Turkish military history, when it wanted a quadripartite alliance from “Britain – Australia – New Zealand – France The occupation of Istanbul in a bloody battle, but it failed in exchange for a great Ottoman victory, and it was a major starting point for the War of Independence and the subsequent declaration of the Turkish Republic.

In addition to training Somali soldiers, Ankara supports the Somali arsenal with tactical weapons, as the Somali army uses the Turkish army’s MPT-76 assault rifles. In August of last year, Somalia acquired 12 BMC Kirpi anti-ambush and mine-resistant combat vehicles from Ankara, and as stated in the report of the “Jamestown” Foundation to analyze the strategic policies of countries, Ankara used in Somalia a “foreign military strategy.” Distinctive, unparalleled anywhere else on the continent. Only in Somalia is Turkey taking advanced bases, and most importantly, it is graduating a new generation of trainees and adopting a new military-social identity aimed at shaping the future of Somalia. ”The report adds that Turks, in short, train future Somali soldiers in the Turkish language Ultimately, they are expected to contribute to imposing a new geopolitical reality in the Horn of Africa.

Somalia has not departed from the cycle of political turmoil that concerns the Turkish regime as well. After the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Somalia was the first country to end the activities of the opponent of Turkish President Fethullah Gulen, accused of masterminding the coup, and Ankara also reduced fundraising activities for charitable foundations that it believed were necessary. Relationship with Gulen in Somali lands.

Although the coup attempt did not prevent Turkey from continuing to increase investment in Somalia, the most dangerous dilemma for the Turkish presence there remains represented by both “Al Qaeda” and the Somali “Mujahideen Youth Movement”, which opposes the Turkish presence known for short as “Al-Shabaab Movement.” “, A movement that maintains close ties with Al-Qaeda, and has previously declared its allegiance to the global organization against” the Islamic State “while it was active, and its declared goal is to establish an” Islamic pattern of rule “on Somali lands.

Al-Shabab in particular viewed the Turkish government, a member of NATO that was supporting Western operations against the armed movements, as an “enemy of Somalia,” and was soon provoked by the military and security support that Ankara granted to the Somali government, which aims to make it strong militarily and security-wise. What constitutes a great strategic threat to the movement, which made it consider Turkey its first target in its continuous armed offensive operations against Turkish interests.

While Somalia is already making gains against the movement and regaining territory that was under its control thanks to the efforts of Turkey, the United States and the African Union forces, which are the bodies that officially support the Somali army, the attacks of the movement have targeted Turkish interests for years now. In 2013, a Turkish guesthouse in Mogadishu was subjected to an armed attack, while another incident in which a Turkish engineer was killed in May 2019 by planting explosive devices in his car, while last June, only 200 meters away from the Turksum camp, a suicide bomber detonated From the movement itself, after assuming the status of a recruiter, trying to target the Turkish military who train recruits.

A suicide car bomb attack on the gates of an office housing Turkish embassy employees in the Somali capital, Mogadishu

The threat of Turkish influence in Somali lands is not limited to the biggest local armed player, Al-Shabab, but also extends to regional powers. The Yeni Safak newspaper, which is close to the Turkish government, reported on November 14 that military officials from Egypt, Sudan and Israel will meet To form a lobby to counter Turkish influence in the Red Sea, especially in Somalia, and this came at the request of Egypt, which had previously opened the Berenice military base in the south of the Red Sea to confront Turkish threats and ambitions in the region, and most likely Cairo has now found an opportunity to benefit from the modern Sudanese normalization with Israel, Especially since the latter is concerned with confronting the Turkish-Iranian threats in the Red Sea as well.

In this context, “Nasser” believes, in his speech to “FieldTurkey, which was keen to exist in Sudan (via Suakin Island before its existence was hit by a blow, has not recovered from it until now after the overthrow of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and the ambiguity of the current military council’s position on the agreement), and drew important hopes and plans in the process of presence in the port of Suakin In order to create an opportunity to secure the Red Sea strip from the south and the center, its moves in Somalia provoke its competing countries, namely Egypt, Israel and the Emirates, in addition to Turkey trying to fill a void created by regional and international powers in the Somali state, and it is working to prove that it is a credible and reliable country with alliances, as happened. In Libya and in the Azeri-Armenian conflict, it also has economic goals of strengthening its relationship with Mogadishu, adding in his private interview to the website “Field“Ankara began discovering gas and oil in the disputed area in the Indian Ocean, and there are discoveries that may give the exploration advantage to Turkey by virtue of the fact that it has played or played a major role in securing and strengthening the Somali army through the base it established in 2017.”

With regard to the ability of the aforementioned tripartite alliance to influence Turkish influence in Somalia, Nasser says to “Field“: After the Sudanese-Turkish relations were frozen, we note that the tripartite alliance (Egypt, Israel and Sudan) is moving together to influence the Turkish presence in Somalia, the fragile state whose security and stability can be affected by strengthening some rebel elements against the central government, thus undermining the Turkish presence. In Somalia, “he added,” the success of this attempt depends on the strength of the coalition, and Nasser believes that that force is still in the process of formation, and until that happens, Ankara may make deeper penetrations that will strengthen its presence in Somalia and the Horn of Africa further. “

In the end, Somalia will remain a unique country in Turkey’s strategic calculations in the continent, and it seems that the Turks are not prepared in any way to withdraw from this country under any pressure, as the Turkish policy there will not be limited to establishing frontal military bases, but will extend Also, to invest in natural resources in a country of great importance in its region, which are the two elements (military bases and natural resources) that will make the task of extracting Turkey from Somali lands on any opponent, local or regional, very difficult.

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