Leaders of the Somali National Army met with international military and civilian officials to discuss the future of Somalia’s security at the 2017 SNA Symposium in downtown Mogadishu, Jan. 10.
The symposium is part of an ongoing international effort to aid security conditions throughout Somalia by fostering the growth and revitalization of the national military defense force, which disbanded following the collapse of the country’s central government in 1991.
According to symposium facilitator U.S. Army Col. Kyle Reed, the event was an unprecedented opportunity to bring all the key players together to engage in frank and open conversation. He began by thanking those present, to include expressing his appreciation to the SNA leadership in attendance.
“Your presence here allows the [Somali] government to grow and develop,” Reed said. “Not only for your military, but for your country, and your families.”
More than 60 participants attended the two-day event, including representatives from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Somalia, Turkey, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Also in attendance, were representatives from international organizations such as the United Nations, European Union Training Mission, and the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, expressed the need for urgency given the impending withdrawal of the AMISOM forces that have helped to maintain stability in Somalia since Jan. 2007.
“We are coming out of a very successful election, and it speaks volumes for the contributions of AMISOM to Somalia’s security, but AMISOM’s time is ending,” Sonntag said. “Time is ticking and decisions need to be made, so we all have a blueprint on how to move forward.”
After a representative from each organization was given the opportunity to address those in attendance, a breakout session allowed members of the SNA, AMISOM, and the international community to meet independently.
Each group was tasked to determine a course of action that would enable the manning, equipping, training and sustainment of SNA forces. The results were instrumental in identifying the similarities, discrepancies and challenges facing a coordinated effort to increase SNA capabilities and provide for the long-term security of Somalia.
The culmination of effort resulted in the identification of several key requirements that all participants agreed were necessary for the growth and development of the SNA.
As the event drew to a close, Reed emphasized that the symposium itself would never resolve Somalia’s security concerns, but that it had begun a dialog through which the international community could now focus its efforts.
“The end result is to create an effective fighting force,” Reed said. “One with the skills and capabilities necessary to meet the current and future needs of the country of Somalia.”