Turkey Opens Military Base in Somalia

Turkey opens a $50 million military base along the seafront in Mogadishu. It’s the biggest training base outside Turkey.

BY AGENCIES *

Turkey opened its largest overseas military training camp on Saturday on a 400-hectare seafront site in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

The $50 million facility, which has been under construction since March 2015, is designed to provide support and training to troops of the war-torn country which is struggling to rebuild its national security forces.

Senior officials, including Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire attended the opening ceremony.



About 200 Turkish soldiers will train 10,000 troops from the Somali Army, in squads of 1,500 at a time.

“Somalia needs the help of professional trainers such as Turkey’s, and there is a close relationship between the two countries, so this could be hugely beneficial to Somalia and a morale booster for the Somali people,” Abdirashid Hashi, director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, told Arab News.

“It also strengthens the Turkish government’s presence and influence in Somalia.”

The facility is Turkey’s biggest overseas military base, the Somali PM said. Khaire added that the training facility will help Somalia to “reconstruct” a truly national force “not based on clan… not from a particular place, but well-trained forces that represent the Somali people.”

Geopolitical Interests

Turkey is not the only country that has set up a military facility in the country.

The US has military bases in Somalia, although it has not publicly acknowledged their existence. One of the largest is at Balidogle airfield  – a former Somali Airforce base 110km northwest outside Mogadishu.

The United Arab Emirates is another country which has army presence. It runs one military facility in Mogadishu and has agreed a deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland in the country’s north to establish a second.



Analysts say it is not surprising that many countries are establishing bases in the country of 11 million people.

“The strategic location of Somalia and its political impasse has made it an attractive location for foreign entities that have geopolitical interests in the region,” Hamza Egal, a Nairobi-based Somalia analyst said.

Pinar Akpinar, a scholar at the Conflict Resolution and Mediation Stream of the Istanbul Policy Center, said establishing a military camp in Somalia was a way for Turkey to secure a long-term role thereby balancing soft and hard power capabilities, and was part of a broader policy of establishing a military stronghold in the Gulf of Aden.

Ankara has been increasing its foothold in the strategic country with President Reccep Tayip Erdogan visiting the horn of Africa country twice since 2011.

Turkey has built schools, hospitals and roads in the country and continues to send humanitarian aid to Somalia.

Despite the optimistic tone of the officials, the situation in the country, which has been in turmoil for decades, remains fragile.

An insurgency, spearheaded by the al-Shabaab terrorist group persists. On Thursday, at least 7 people were killed in Mogadishu, when an explosive device went off near the Hamarweyne market.

Just ahead of the opening of the Turkish base, jihadist militants attacked a government military facility outside the capital killing some 17 soldiers. The militants breached the base’s defenses with suicide car bombs and seized control of the site along with a nearby town.

* RT, Al Jazeera and Arab News contributed to the story.