Military Wiki
Somali Armed Forces[1]
Ciidamada Qalabka Sida
القوات المسلحة صومالية
Flag of Somalia.svg
Flag of the Federal Republic of Somalia
Founded 1960
Service branches Somalia Somali National Army[1]
Somalia Somali Air Force[1]
Somalia Somali Navy[1]
Headquarters Mogadishu, Somalia
Commander-in-Chief Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Minister of Defense Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi
Chief of Army Dahir Adan Elmi
Military age 16
Available for
military service
2,261,704 (2010 est.; males)
2,217,584 (2010 est.; females), age 18–49
Fit for
military service
1,328,567 (2010 est.; males)
1,386,971 (2010 est.; females), age 18–49
Reaching military
age annually
99,919 (2010 est.; males)
99,771 (2010 est.; females)
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,[2] 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] The subsequent outbreak of the civil war in 1991 meant that the Somali National Army 'ceased to exist'.[7] In 2004, the gradual process of reconstituting the military was put in motion with the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The Somali Armed Forces are now overseen by the Ministry of Defence of the Federal Government of Somalia, formed in mid-2012. The Somaliland and Puntland regional governments maintain their own security and police forces.


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).[7] 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 Ibrihim 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.[8][9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.

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.[7]

1960 to 1991

File:General Kediye.jpg

Lieutenant Colonel Salaad Gabeyre Kediye, an early Somali military leader and the "Father of the Revolution" that succeeded Somalia's civilian administration.

Just prior to independence in 1960, the Trust Territory of Somalia sought and obtained UN permission to establish a national army to defend the nascent Somali Republic's borders. The Somali Police Force's Mobile Group (Darawishta Poliska or Darawishta) was subsequently formed. April 12, 1960 has since been marked as Armed Forces Day.[12] 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.[13] On July 1, 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic, albeit within boundaries drawn up by Italy and Britain.[14]

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 Abdullaahi Hersi, a former officer in the British military administration's police force, the Somalia Gendarmerie.[7] Officers were trained in Britain, 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.[15]

Merging the British Somaliland protectorate and the Italian Somaliland colony was rendered more difficult by the fact that the two former territories had hitherto been institutionally managed as separate states. 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 were assigned to command their units. The rebels were subsequently detained by other northern soldiers of NCO rank, although dissatisfaction in the north lingered.[16] The force was expanded and modernized after the rebellion with the assistance of Soviet and Cuban advisors.

Somalia's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Somali National Army was battle-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.[7]

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.[17] Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who had succeeded Hersi as Chief of Army in 1965,[7] was installed as President of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), the new government of Somalia.[17] The country was renamed the Somali Democratic Republic, and Barre became the spokesman and leader of the new Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC). In 1971, he announced the regime's intention to phase out military rule.

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).[18] 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.' Three divisions (the 21st, 54th, and 60th) 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.[19]

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 were mandated by Barre's government in 1977 with formulating a national strategy in preparation for the Ogaden campaign in Ethiopia.[20] This was part of a broader effort to unite all of the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn region into a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn).[21] At the start of the offensive, the SNA consisted of 35,000 soldiers,[22] and was vastly outnumbered by the Ethiopian forces. Somali national army troops seized the Godey Front on July 24, 1977, after the SNA's 60th Division brigades defeated the 4th Ethiopian Infantry Division.[23] 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.[24] 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 their previous supplies to Barre's regime and 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.[25] 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.[24]

Following the 1977-78 Ogaden campaign, Caabud-Waaq became the base for the SNA's 21st Division.[26] The shift in support by the Soviet Union would ultimately motivate 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.

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).[27] 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).

In 1984, the government attempted to solve the manpower shortage problem by instituting obligatory military service.[15] Men of eighteen to forty years of age were to be conscripted for two years. Opposition to conscription and to the counterinsurgency 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. Traditionally, the Siad Barre regime had followed a policy of mixing recruits from different parts of the country in order to cultivate nationalism among the soldiers. However, as the ongoing counterinsurgencies further isolated the regime, members of Siad Barre's subclan, the Mareehaan, increasingly dominated senior military positions. 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.

This increase in military strength coincided with a consolidated effort by various clan-based rebel groups in the country — most notably the Somali Salvation Democratic Front led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a decorated war hero and former colonel in the army, the Isaaq-led Somali National Movement (SNM), and General Mohamed Farah Aidid's United Somali Congress — to destabilize the Barre regime.

Human Rights Watch reported in September 1990:[28]

Rebel forces briefly occupied Galkayo in mid November, 1989. They are said to have captured much military equipment at the 4th Division Headquarters, including 30 mobile anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers and tanks. They were unable to take most of this equipment and burned it. Subsequently, government troops undertook massive reprisals against civilians living in the regions of the 54th, 21st, 60th and 77th military sectors. The towns and villages affected include Dagaari, Sadle-Higlo, Bandiir Adley, Galinsor, Wargalo, Do'ol, Gowlalo, Halimo, Go'ondalay and Galkayo town which is the regional capital of Mudug.

The various rebel movements eventually succeeding in ousting the government altogether in the ensuing Somali Civil War that broke out in 1991. The Somali Armed Forces subsequently 'ceased to exist', and various local faction leaders began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed. 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.[29]

Transitional period

Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a decorated war hero that participated in the 1964 border conflict and later led the Somali National Army's (SNA) southern front in the Ogaden War.

From 2004–2004, Ismail Qasim Naji served as the military chief of the Transitional National Government (TNG).[30] He was given the rank of Major General. During this time, the TNG was opposed militarily and politically by the rival Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), backed by Hussein Mohamed Farrah Aidid (son of the late faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid), Mohamed Dhere, and others. Eventually the leadership of the SRRC and the TNG reconciled.

In October 2004, a new Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed in exile in Nairobi, Kenya.[31] Led by former President of Puntland Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who had since been elected President of Somalia, it included among its mandates the re-establishment of Somalia's armed forces. He subsequently dispatched many soldiers from the Puntland military to the south 'in order to support Abdullahi Yusuf’s fight for power in Mogadishu and environs'.[32]

The IISS Military Balance 2006 said that the transitional government '..with an estimated 5,000 troops ..only controls northern Mogadishu,'[33] though the TFG's base for a period was actually in Baidoa.[citation needed] On 5 September 2006, an agreement between the TFG and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) to build a national military was reached "in principle". However, in practice, political disagreements scuttled talks scheduled for 30 October in Khartoum, Sudan.[34][35] After the ICU's defeat in December 2006–January 2007, a separate pact was reached between the government and several faction leaders for the disarmament of the militias.[36]

On 20 January 2007, with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1744, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was formally authorised, which would provide much-needed backing for central government forces.[37] On 10 February 2007, Abdullahi Ali Omar became Chief of Army for the Transitional Federal Government. He had previously been the Chief of Staff of the armed forces of Puntland.[38] 700 Ugandan troops, earmarked for AMISOM, were landed at Mogadishu airport on 7–8 March 2007.[39]

In December 2008, the International Crisis Group reported:[40]

Yusuf has built a largely subservient and loyal apparatus by putting his fellow Majerteen clansmen in strategic positions. The National Security Agency (NSA) under General Mohamed Warsame (“Darwish”) and the so-called “Majerteen militia” units in the TFG army operate in parallel and often above other security agencies. Their exact number is hard to ascertain, but estimates suggest about 2,000.[41] They are well catered for, well armed and often carry out counter-insurgency operations with little or no coordination with other security agencies. In the short term, this strategy may appear effective for the president, who can unilaterally employ the force essentially as he pleases. However, it undermines morale in the security services and is a cause of their high desertion rates.

Much of the problem building armed forces was the lack of functioning TFG government institutions:[42]

Beyond the endemic internal power struggles, the TFG has faced far more serious problems in establishing its authority and rebuilding the structures of governance. Its writ has never extended much beyond Baidoa. Its control of Mogadishu is ever more contested, and it is largely under siege in the rest of the country. There are no properly functioning government institutions.

Also in December 2008, Human Rights Watch described the Somali National Army as the 'TFG's largely theoretical professional military force.' It said that 'where trained TFG military forces appear, 'they were identified by their victims as Ethiopian-trained forces, often acting in concert with ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) forces or under the command of ENDF officers.'[43] HRW also said that 'Human Rights Watch's own research has uncovered a pattern of violent abuses by TFG forces including widespread acts of murder, rape, looting, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture. Those responsible include police, military, and intelligence personnel as well as the personal militias of high-ranking TFG officials.'[43]

HRW went on to say: 'The TFG has deployed a confusing array of security forces and armed militias to act on its behalf. Victims of the widespread abuses in which these forces have been implicated often have trouble identifying whether their attackers were TFG police officers, other TFG security personnel, or militias linked to TFG officials. Furthermore, formal command-and-control structures are to a large degree illusory. TFG security forces often wear multiple hats, acting on orders from their formal superiors one day, as clan militias another day, and as autonomous self-interested armed groups the next.'[43]

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.[44] 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.[45]

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

In April 2009, various international 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.[46] 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.[47]

In November 2010, a new technocratic government was elected to office, which enacted numerous reforms. Among these, in its first 50 days in office, the new administration completed its first monthly payment of stipends to government soldiers, and initiated the implementation of a full biometric register for the security forces within a window of four months.[48] By August 2011, the new government and its AMISOM allies had managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants.[49]

In October 2011, following a weekend preparatory meeting between Somali and Kenyan military officials in the town of Dhobley,[50] a coordinated operation between the Somali Armed Forces and the Kenya Defence Forces began against the Al-Shabaab group of insurgents in southern Somalia.[51][52] The mission was officially led by the Somali army, with the Kenyan forces providing a support role.[52] In early June 2012, Kenyan troops were formally integrated into AMISOM.[53] According to China Daily, regional analysts expected the additional AU troop reinforcements to help the Somali authorities gradually expand their territorial control.[54]

In February 2012, Somali forces fighting alongside AMISOM seized Baidoa from al-Shabaab.[55] In March, Somali and African Union forces pushed al-Shabaab from its last strongholds in Mogadishu and captured El Bur. In May, al-Shabaab lost the cities of Afgoye and Afmadow. On June 26, 2012, the capture of Balad was reported by The same story named Major General Abdullahi Ali Anood, as the commander of the first battalion of the Somali army.

Federal period

The Federal Government of Somalia was established in August/September 2012. By November of the year, the new administration had, according to UN Special Envoy to Somalia Augustine Mahiga, managed to secure control of around 85% of the country.[56]

At the behest of the Somali federal government, the United Nations Security Council later unanimously approved United Nations Security Council Resolution 2093 during its 6 March 2013 meeting to suspend the 21-year arms embargo on Somalia. The endorsement officially lifts the purchase ban on light weapons for a provisional period of one year, but retains certain restrictions on the procurement of heavy arms such as surface-to-air missiles, howitzers and cannons.[29]

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.[57]

Somali National Army

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.[58] At the time, the military had decreased considerably in size.[59] The IISS noted that these formations 'were in name only; below establishment in units, men, and equipment. Brigades were of battalion size.'[58] Other units and formations listed included four tank brigades, 45 mechanized and infantry brigades, 4 commando brigades, 1 surface-to-air missile brigade, 3 field artillery brigades, 30 field artillery battalions, and one air defence artillery battalion.

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
T-54/55 Main battle tank; 100mm quick firing gun; most transferred 1974-1976 Soviet Union 40
T-34 Medium tank; 85mm gun Soviet Union 60
Centurion Main battle tank; 105mm gun Great Britain 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
Fiat 6614 10-passenger wheeled APC Italy 200
Fiat 6616 Armored car; 20mm gun Italy
BTR-152 12-passenger wheeled APC Soviet Union 150
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
100mm Towed Soviet Union 250
57mm Towed Soviet Union
37mm Towed Soviet Union
23mm ZU-23-2-type, towed Soviet Union
SAM-2 Land-mobile surface-to-air Soviet Union 30
Guideline missile (SAM) Soviet Union
SAM-3 Goa Land-mobile SAM; short-range defense vs. low flying aircraft Soviet Union
MILAN Surface-to-surface, man-portable, anti-tank guided weapon France/West Germany 100

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:[58] 293 main battle tanks (30 Centurion from Kuwait, said the SIPRI Arms Trade Register in 2012),[60] 123 M47 Patton, 30 T-34, 110 T-54/55) (from various sources, said the SIPRI Arms Trade Register accessed in 2012). 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, said the SIPRI Arms Trade Register accessed in 2012). 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 wer 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.[58]

Military exercises between the United States and the Siad Barre regime continued during the 1980s. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in Exercise Eastern Wind in August 1987 in the area of Geesalay.[61]

The outbreak of the civil war in 1991 meant that the Somali National Army 'ceased to exist'.[7] Much equipment was left in situ, deteriorating, and was sometimes discovered and photographed by intervention forces in the early 1990s.

Rebuilding the Army

In November 2009, the European Union announced its intention to train 2 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.[62] The 2 battalions are expected to be ready by August 2011.[63] On 21 April 2011, 1,000 recruits completed training in Uganda as a part of the agreement with the EU.[64]

In May 2010, Turkey and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia also signed a military training agreement, in keeping with the provisions outlined in the Djibouti Peace Process.[65]

In a report dated February 2011, the International Crisis Group said:[66]

Powerful vested interests and corrupt commanders are still the biggest obstacles to [army] reform. Efforts to provide the army with better equipment have been sluggish and dogged by allegations some is sold by officers. Attempts led by AMISOM to develop a coherent structure for the disparate militias and whip their estimated 8,000 members into fighting form have been problematic. There remains resistance to creation of an effective chain of command, rational military formations and even a credible troop roster. The respected former army chief, General Gelle, tried to improve things but was marginalised, then dismissed.

As part of the EU military training program, 900 Somali soldiers graduated from the Bihanga Military Training School in the Ibanda District of Uganda on 31 August 2011.[67][68] 150 personnel from the EU took part in the training process, which trained around 2,000 Somali troops per year.[68]

On 16 September 2011, President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed laid down the foundation for a new military camp for the Somali National Army (SNA) 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.[69]

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),[70] an initiative designed to strengthen and professionalize the national security forces.[1] The agreement would include training soldiers and rebuilding the Somali army.[70]

In November 2012, the Somali federal authorities issued an official request to the UN Security Council for assistance in recovering public assets and funds that were being held abroad. The state properties had been frozen by foreign administrations, institutions and firms after the collapse of Somalia's central government in 1991 in order to prevent unauthorized use. In January 2013, Somalia's reconstituted Cabinet began a formal assessment and recovery process of its assets, which include ships and planes that are believed to be held in Italy, Germany and Yemen.[71]

As of March 2013, the Somali National Army reportedly consists of six trained brigades, two of which are presently deployed. Each brigade comprises three to six battalions of around 1000 soldiers each, or 18,000 to 36,000 troops in total. Of these, an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 soldiers are currently in service.[72]

Special Force

In August 2011, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia 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 new protection force is also tasked with combating banditry and other vices.[73]

National Intelligence and Security Agency

The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) is the national intelligence agency of the Federal Republic of Somalia. It was officially established in January 2013 by the new Somali federal government in place of the defunct National Security Service (NSS).[74][75] Headquartered in Mogadishu, NISA is mandated with firming up on security.[74] It is assisted in this capacity by AMISOM.[75] According to the former Minister of State for the Presidency Abdulkadir Moallin Noor, the CIA also provided training to NISA officials during the latter agency's formative stages.[76] Among other deployments, NISA agents have conducted security operations against Al-Shabaab elements in the capital.[77]

Somali Air Force

Asli Hassan Abade, a pioneer in the Somali Air Force.

The Somali Air Force (SAF), also known as the Somali Air Corps (SAC), was originally established with Italian aid in the early 1960s. It emerged from the Italian "Corpo di Sicurezza della Somalia", which existed between 1950 and 1960, during the trusteeship period just prior to independence. The most important pieces of the SAF's original equipment were eight North American F-51D Mustangs, Douglas C-47s and MiG 23s, which remained in service until 1968. The SAF operated most of its aircraft from bases near Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Galkayo. Its mission was to support armed forces during wartime.

The outbreak of the civil war in 1991 meant that the Somali air force 'ceased to exist'.[7] In the 2000s, the central government began the process of rebuilding the Air Force.[70]


The following was the Somali Air Force's major equipment in 1981:[5]

A Somali Air Force MiG-21 fighter-bomber in flight.

Type Description Country of Manufacture Inventory
Combat aircraft
MiG-17 Fresco Mach 0.9 fighter-bomber Soviet Union 9
MiG-21 Fishbed Mach 2.1 fighter-bomber with AA-2 Atoll anti-aircraft missiles Soviet Union 3
Shenyang F-6 Mach 1.3 fighter-bomber China 30
Il-28 Beagle Subsonic jet light bomber Soviet Union 3
SF-260W Single-engine light attack craft Italy 6
Transport aircraft
An-2 Single-engine light transport Soviet Union 3
An-24/-26 Twin-turboprop transport Soviet Union 3
C-47 Twin-engine transport United States 3
C-45 Twin-engine light transport United States 1
G-222 Twin-turboprop transport Italy 4
Mi-4 Twelve-seat transport Soviet Union 4
Mi-8 Twin-engine medium transport Soviet Union 8
AB-204 General utility helicopter United States/Italy 1
AB-212 General utility helicopter United States/Italy 4
P.148 Single-engine, two-seat primary trainer Italy 6
Yak-11 Single-engine, twos-seat advanced trainer Soviet Union 20
MiG-15 UTI Two-seat advanced jet trainer Soviet Union 4
SM-1019 Single-engine training, observation, and light attack aircraft Italy 6

New Air Force

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, including revitalizing the Somali Air Force.[70]

On October 29, 2012, 40 senior SAF and Somali National Army officers participated in the three-day Improving Understanding and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) workshop in Djibouti. Organized by AMISOM as part of the Somali Armed Forces' National Security Stabilization Plan, the program offered a refresher course on the essentials of IHL. Officials from Somalia's Ministry of Defence also took part, with the Djibouti Chief of Defence Forces opening the workshop.[1]

Somali Navy

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 'ceased to exist' following the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia during that year.[7] In the 2000s, the central government began the process of re-establishing the Somali Navy.[78]


The following was the Somali Navy's major equipment in 1981:[5]

Two Somali Osa Missile Boats during the 1983 Operation Bright Star.

Type Description Country of Manufacture Inventory
Fast attack craft
Osa II-class FAC (missile) with four SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles; transferred 1975 Soviet Union 2
Mol-class FAC (torpedo) with four 21-inch tubes; transferred 1976 Soviet Union 4
P6-class FAC (torpedo) with two 21-inch tubes; transferred 1968 Soviet Union 4
Patrol craft
Poluchat I-class Large patrol craft; transferred 1965-66 Soviet Union 5
Amphibious forces
Polnochniy-class Landing craft (tank); transferred 1976 Soviet Union 1
T-4-class Landing craft (medium); transferred 1968-69 Soviet Union 4

New Navy

In June 2009, Somali naval forces were re-established with a new commander appointed, Admiral Farah Omar Ahmed. Up to 500 marines were training in Mogadishu with their training expected to finish in December 2009. They were the first batch of an expected 5000 strong navy force.[79]

In 2011, a visiting Somali delegation to Turkey tabled a request for two search-and-rescue ships and six coast guard boats. Worth some 250 million euros, the gesture was intended to turn the new Somali navy into a stronger naval force capable of curbing piracy and protecting its coastline.[80]

Following a Transitional Federal Government-Puntland cooperative agreement in August 2011 calling for the creation of a Somali Marine Force, of which the already established Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) would form a part, the Puntland administration resumed training of PMPF naval officials.[81]

On June 30, 2012, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash announced that his administration would contribute $1 million toward enhancing Somalia's naval security capacity. The funds would enable the Somali authorities in collaboration with international partners to acquire the boats, equipment and communication gear necessary for the rebuilding of the coast guard. A central operations naval command was also slated to be set up in Mogadishu.[82]

On August 7, 2012, Prime Minister Ali announced that his government was set to re-establish the Somali Navy. Speaking to reporters in the capital, the Premier indicated that his administration wanted to create a well-trained national marine force capable of efficiently patrolling Somalia's territorial waters and putting an end to the illegal plunder of the country's resources by foreign companies and nations. He also indicated that he had asked the international community to support the Somali government's extant efforts aimed at developing its maritime defensive capacity, including the possibility of acquiring speed boats and warships to more effectively secure the country's extensive seaboard.[78]

Somali Police Force

Flag of the Somali Police Force.


In 1960, the British Somaliland Scouts joined with the Police Corps of Somalia to form a new Somali Police Force, which consisted of about 3,700 men. The authorities also organized approximately 1,000 of the force as the Darawishta Poliska, a mobile group used to keep peace between warring clans in the interior. Since then, the government has considered the SPF a part of the armed forces. It was not a branch of the SNA, however, and did not operate under the army's command structure. Until its dissolution in 1976, the Ministry of Interior oversaw the force's national commandant and his central command. After that date, the SPF came under the control of the presidential adviser on security affairs.

New Police Force

The first police academy to be built in Somalia for several years opened on 20 December 2005 at Armo, 100 kilometres south of Bosaso.[83] The Somali police also has a criminal investigations department in Mogadishu.

The United Nations Secretary General reported on 31 January 2013 that:[84]

The United Nations continued to support the activities of the Somali Police Force, including the formulation of a strategic development plan. UNPOS facilitated the procurement of equipment and furniture for 10 police stations in Mogadishu and police headquarters and provided training to 38 Somali Police Force drivers and 5 fleet managers. UNDP continued to pay police stipends to 5,388 Somali Police Force officers on duty in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Galmudug, courtesy of the Government of Japan and the European Union. A total of 4,463 Somali Police Force officers were registered in Mogadishu using the biometric registration system, completing the registration for the capital.


President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

According to the constitution, the President of Somalia serves as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Following the counsel of the Cabinet, he or she has the power to appoint and dismiss the federal-level military commanders. He or she may also declare a state of emergency and war where necessary, in conformance with the law.[4]

Commander in Chief

No. Name Took command Left command
1 Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed 14 October 2004[85] 29 December 2008[86]
2 Sharif Sheikh Ahmed 31 January 2009[87] 20 August 2012[88]
3 Hassan Sheikh Mohamud 16 September 2012[89] Present

Minister of Defence

Minister of Defence Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi.

No. Name Took command Left command
1 Mohamed Abdi Gandhi 21 February 2009[90]
2 Yusuf Mohammed Siad 9 June 2010[91]
3 Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi 12 November 2010[92] 20 July 2011[93]
4 Hussein Arab Isse 20 July 2011[93] 4 November 2012[94]
5 Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi 4 November 2012[94] Present

Chief of Army

No. Name Took command Left command
1 Maj.Gen Ismail Qasim Naji 14 April 2005[95] 10 February 2007[38]
2 Maj.Gen Abdullahi Ali Omar 10 February 2007[38] 21 July 2007[96]
3 Brig.Gen Salah Hassan Jama 21 July 2007[96] 11 June 2008[97]
4 Maj.Gen Said Dheere Mohamed 11 June 2008[97] 15 May 2009[98]
5 Maj.Gen Yusuf Osman Dhumal 15 May 2009[98] 10 December 2009[99]
6 Brig.Gen Mohamed Gelle Kahiye 6 December 2009[99] 18 September 2010[100]
7 Brig.Gen Ahmed Jimale Gedi 18 September 2010 28 March 2011
8 Maj.Gen Abdulkadir Sheikh Dini 28 March 2011[101] 13 March 2013[102]
9 Brig.Gen Dahir Adan Elmi 13 March 2013[102] Present

Military ranks 1977

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

The Somali Armed Forces' military ranks, 1982.

Level Rank Commission Notables
1 Major General Officer Daud Abdulle Hirsi, Siad Barre,
Abdullahi Ahmed Irro, Muhammad Ali Samatar,
Abdullah Mohamed Fadil,
Mohamud Muse Hersi
2 Brigadier General Officer Ali Matan Hashi, Mohamed Farah Aidid, Muse Hassan Sheikh Sayid Abdulle
3 Colonel Officer Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Mohamed Osman Irro, Jibrell Ali Salad
4 Lieutenant Colonel Officer Salaad Gabeyre Kediye
5 Major Officer
6 Captain Officer
7 First Lieutenant Officer
8 Second Lieutenant Officer
9 Chief Warrant Officer NCO
10 Warrant Officer III NCO
11 Warrant Officer II NCO
12 Warrant Officer I NCO
13 Sergeant NCO
14 Corporal NCO
15 Private First Class NCO


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Further reading

  • Irving Kaplan, Area Handbook for Somalia, American University, 1969 and 1977.

External links

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website

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