Turkish military base in Somalia: Risks and opportunities

A handout photo made available by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on January 25, 2015, shows Turkeyís President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center R) welcomed by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (center R) upon his arrival for the opening of the new Turkish-renovated Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2017
0

Turkish military base in Somalia: Risks and opportunities

ANKARA: As a projection of its expanded geopolitical and economic presence in East Africa, Turkey will open its largest overseas military training camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu in September. It will be the first of its kind for the Somali national army, which is being restructured.
Construction began in March 2015. At the cost of some $50 million, the base will host three military schools, dormitories and depots over an area of 400 hectares. 
For training exercises with up to 10,000 Somali soldiers in early September, some 200 Turkish soldiers will be deployed at the base, which will be able to train more than 1,500 troops at a time. 
But such a military engagement carries risks. It is not clear whether Turkish troops will be involved in combat missions against the militant group Al-Shabab, which controls most of south-central Somalia.
Turkey has been very active in Somalia since 2011, helping the country strengthen its public institutions and alleviate a severe famine. 
On Aug. 15, Turkish Airlines carried more than 60 tons of food aid to Mogadishu, to be distributed to 12 locations in Somalia. More than 60 tons of food aid and medical supplies were sent to Mogadishu in April. 
Prof. Sedat Aybar, director of the Africa Research Center at Istanbul Aydin University, said Turkey has contributed positively to Somali development. 
“In terms of building up hard power, establishing a military base is a serious effort, but the outcomes are unknown in the short run,” he told Arab News.
“However, given the situation in Somalia, this effort is more likely to provide positive returns for Somalis,” he added. 
“A NATO member and an inspiring candidate for full EU membership, Turkey’s efforts in Somalia are more likely to generate international coordination and cooperation, rather than creating conflict and turmoil.”
Aybar said establishing a Turkish military base in Somalia has become even more significant since the announcement by President Donald Trump that US aid to Africa will be reduced. 
“Many countries in Africa are aid-dependent, and American aid is an important part of their functioning as nation states,” said Aybar.
“Turkey, being one of the major donor countries to Somalia, is going one step further by establishing a military capacity there,” he added.
“This is particularly important as development requires building up a military capacity that doesn’t fully exist in Somalia.” 
Aybar said Turkey, as a mid-sized regional power, gets involved in development in Africa by taking part in the continent’s new security architecture. “This is expected to provide positive returns for the Turkish defense industry.”
Hasan Ozturk, an Africa expert from the Istanbul-based think tank BILGESAM, said the camp’s strategic location is telling, as it is very close to the entry point of the Gulf of Aden, north of Mogadishu.
“For years, Turkey has been providing military training to officers of many African Union (AU) countries, including Somalia. It became very costly to host and train them each time in Turkey,” Ozturk told Arab News. 
“Such training will also help Turkey’s broader international trade priorities, as the training will involve anti-piracy efforts, to which Turkey has contributed in the past.” 
Ibrahim Nassir, an Africa expert at the Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies, said the camp will boost Turkey’s soft power in the region and enhance its status as an essential player in regional security.
He added that Somalia’s president is very keen to fight terrorism, and that has reduced the number of terrorist attacks in his country.
Nassir said there is no security risk for the military camp because security has improved in parts of Somalia, especially Mogadishu.
“On top of that, Turkey has soldiers and military bases in many countries, and there are no terrorist attacks on its troops,” he said.
“This indicates that many nations trust the Turkish armed forces due to their belligerence against imperialism and injustices around the world.”


More than 7,000 Syrians quit camp near Jordan border

Updated 41 min 26 sec ago
0

More than 7,000 Syrians quit camp near Jordan border

  • Those who have quit the camp have moved to collective shelters in the central city of Homs or resettled in their areas of origin
  • The camp has been particularly difficult to reach due to its location on the Jordanian border and the proximity of US forces and the rebels they support

BEIRUT: More than 7,000 people have left a desperate desert camp for displaced Syrians near the Jordanian border since March, a United Nations spokesperson said Friday.
According to the UN’s humanitarian coordination office OCHA, around 36,000 people remained in the isolated Rukban camp near Al-Tanf base used by the US-led coalition fighting the Daesh group, after over 4,000 left between March and April 21.
The Syrian government and key backer Russia said in February they had opened corridors out of the camp, calling on residents to leave.
“Since March, over 7,300 people have left Rukban,” OCHA spokesman David Swanson told AFP, including some 3,000 who left after April 21.
Those who have quit the camp have moved to collective shelters in the central city of Homs or resettled in their areas of origin in the province of the same name, OCHA said Thursday.
It said Rukban residents were organizing their own transportation to the edge of a de-escalation zone established around Al-Tanf, from where they either continued in their vehicles or were transferred by private or government-provided vehicles to four collective shelters in Homs city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says those returning to government-held parts of Homs from Rukban had struck so-called “reconciliation deals” with the Syrian government.
Conditions inside Rukban are dire, with many surviving on just one simple meal a day, often bread and olive oil or yoghurt, according to one resident.
The camp has been particularly difficult to reach due to its location on the Jordanian border and the proximity of US forces and the rebels they support.
In February, a humanitarian convoy of 133 trucks delivered food, clothes, health care items and medical supplies to the camp’s residents.
The February 6 delivery was just the second in three months.
Syria’s civil war killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.