The Turkish Defense Ministry frequently shares posts on social media about Somali officers and soldiers who are trained in Turkey. The military school within the Turkish Task Force Command in Somalia (STGK), Turkey’s largest military base abroad, also plays an important role in meeting the needs of commissioned and noncommissioned officers in Somalia. Turkish officers serving in Somalia are advising the Somali army in its restructuring.
Somalis who have completed high school and are eligible for military service are invited to take the Turkish military school exams. Candidates who pass a series of tests including in sports are interviewed by Turkish officers and admitted to the school. It is decided after the interview who will be a commissioned officer and who will be a noncommissioned officer.
Before the military training, students receive six months of Turkish language training. The lessons are given by teachers working at the Yunus Emre Institute, an institution functioning as the long arm of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Africa.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, a Turkish preparatory class that will last for one year is envisaged instead of the current six months of Turkish language education in order to give Somali officers a better command of Turkish. The language problem faced by Somali soldiers training in Turkey and the Turkish instructors’ inability to speak sufficient English may have played a role in the expansion of Turkish language education.
Apart from commissioned and non-commissioned officers, Somali conscripts are also sent to Turkey to receive commando training at the Counterterrorism Training and Exercise Center Command in the western city of Isparta. These soldiers take part in the fight against the radical Islamist organization Al-Shabaab.
However Somali dissidents frequently claim that the soldiers trained by and in Turkey are used against them. During a political crisis in May 2021, Turkey and Qatari-backed Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (aka Farmaajo) announced that he was extending his mandate by two years by postponing elections. Street clashes broke out as a result of this decision, which drew the anger of the opposition. It was claimed that the military units trained by Turkey were used in the brutal intervention of the Somali government’s security forces against the opposition
According to Turkish officials, Turkey has trained nearly 5,000 Somali soldiers and officers at various times, accounting for roughly one-third of the Somali army. This rate is expected to increase with new graduates of the military school.
Chief of the Somali Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Odawaa Yusuf Rageh is a 2021 graduate of the prestigious Turkish Military Academy, which was established to train officers for the Turkish army. Rageh, who speaks modest Turkish, frequently travels to Turkey.
Turkey considers the Somali army the guarantor of its presence in the vulnerable and fragile African country and is continuing its assistance by donating military equipment and training army personnel. Through its military training base and defense industry cooperation, Turkey is aiming to expand its political influence and military involvement in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Following the withdrawal of African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops in December 2021, Turkey is becoming a dominant factor in shaping the Somali army.
Turkey has been building a strong relationship with Somalia since 2011, when it began providing the country with humanitarian assistance to tackle a famine. Turkey has sought to increase its influence while initiating development projects, opening schools and training Somali soldiers as part of efforts to build up the war-torn country’s army. In the last decade it has built a military base in the capital, and companies linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan run both Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu and the port.
Turkey set up its biggest overseas military base, Camp TURKSOM, in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 2017, increasing Ankara’s presence to its highest level in the Horn of Africa country. The military training base, which reportedly cost $50 million and is spread over four square kilometers, has the capacity to train at least 1,500 soldiers at a time.
Many companies owned by businessmen close to President Erdoğan are active in Somalia and continue the construction of the country’s infrastructure facilities. For instance, with the help of Erdoğan in 2014, management of the Mogadishu harbor facilities was handed over to the Islamist Albayrak Group, a Turkish conglomerate accused of corrupt practices in Turkey and abroad.
In 2020 Turkey obtained a series of concessions to exploit oil, gas and mining prospects in Somalia by establishing a mechanism that would allow both private and state-owned companies to explore energy opportunities in the country, which is strategically located in the Horn of Africa.