The U.S. State Department recently restated their support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Security Services. According to the release, “the United States has obligated over $512 million since 2007 to support AMISOM, and over $171 million to build a more effective and professional Somali National Army.” Combined, this total reflects the level of U.S. aid to Somalia through the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) program.
The U.S. has historically appropriated Peacekeeping Operations assistance to Somalia with the intent to support both the Somali National Forces and AMISOM, but U.S. government reports do not provide details about how PKO amounts are divided between the two security providers. Therefore, on our database PKO assistance to Somalia appears high, though only a portion of that amount actually is destined for the Somalia National Forces. The recent statement shows that over the past seven years, over 75 percent of PKO assistance to Somalia has supported AMISOM troops.
Peacekeeping Assistance for training of national security forces
On first take, the use of PKO funds for the purpose of training the Somali army may seem surprising. Peacekeeping Operations funds are mainly used to “support multilateral peacekeeping and regional stability operations” and “build capabilities in countries seeking to participate in international peace support missions.” However, the U.S. also uses PKO funds to “reform and integrate military forces in the aftermath of conflict.”
When Congress created the Peacekeeping Operations program, they designed the mandate to be very broad (see Section 551 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961), giving the executive wide freedoms to use PKO funds at its own discretion:
President is authorized to furnish assistance to friendly countries and international organizations, on such terms and conditions as he may determine, for peacekeeping operations and other programs carried out in furtherance of the national security interests of the United States.
Thus, legally, PKO funds are fungible, providing the administration with the flexibility to prioritize training as they see fit.
Somalia currently is neither a contributor to peacekeeping missions, nor has it fully transitioned out of the conflict. Especially because of the latter, security concerns in Somalia remain on the forefront of U.S. policy in the region, and there has been Congressional pressure for increased U.S. engagement in Somalia, often with a counterterrorism focus.
The State Department outlines their intent to use Somalia PKO funds for both internal security sector reform and support of an external peacekeeping mission. The Fiscal Year 2012 Congressional Budget Justification states most clearly why the U.S. is so intent on training the Somali National Security Forces (NSF):
Supporting these forces is critical to the overall effort to stabilize Mogadishu and south-central Somalia, as AMISOM cannot conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations under its current mandate.
The U.S. thus hopes that training the Somali army in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency through the peacekeeping account would facilitate military successes against the terrorist organization al-Shabab.
Of note is that prior to FY12, the CBJs referred to Somali security forces loyal to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) instead of Somali National Security Forces (NSF). The earlier term could potentially include tribal militias.
A number of Somalia analysts have expressed concern with the U.S. focus on military solutions to the Somalia conflict and have urged a shift “away from short-term, military-led counterterrorism strategies in the Horn and instead shift to a longer-term frame for countering radicalization from the bottom up.”
The Somali security sector has also been plagued by allegations of corruption and low performance, including high rates of attrition and arms trafficking to clan militias and al-Shabab. Some analysts believe that the army is still an amalgamation of clan-based militias, and thus a contested player in a complex state-building process.
Moreover, it is difficult for civilian advocates to assess the impacts of U.S. training, since the U.S. government has not reported any Somali PKO trainees in the annual Foreign Military Training Report (FMTR), though the last publicly available report is for FY12.