Security and travel ban expected to feature in President Farmaajo’s talks with Trump

 

President Mohamed Farmaajo addressing the 28th annual summit of the Arab League March 29, 2017 in Jordan.

President Mohamed Farmaajo is expected to push for US ease on refugee ban and more enhanced support in building a strong Somali army during his meeting with President Donald Trump in the sidelines of the Arab Islamic American Summit Sunday.

Villa Somalia announced Sunday President Farmaajo will be meeting the US president who landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Saturday. Saudi Arabia and the US signed a $110 billion arms deal and trade agreements to the tune of $280 billion.

President Farmaajo, a US passport holder himself will be meeting President Trump in the sidelines of today’s meetings in Saudi Arabia.

President Trump slapped a travel ban on Somalia and five other Muslim countries shortly after coming to office and so far hundreds of Somalis have been deported from the US. President Farmaajo has previously indicated he would be pursuing the matter with President Trump to ease the restriction which he said had indiscriminately targeted peaceful Somalis.

National Security Architecture

The President will also be expected to seek further support from the US in building the Somali army and other security agencies. Key will be pushing for financial support to implement the newly crafted National Security Architecture which among others provisions the creation of a 22,000 strong Somali National Army and general reform of the security structure as the country prepares for a conditions-based exit of African Union forces.

International partners meeting in London in May 11 asked the government to finalise remaining issues in the security architecture before making targeted pledges in October. Britain howver announced a £21 million to jumpstart the architecture. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the conference the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) would train a specific number of Somali Special Forces to bolster fight against Al-Shabaab.

“I have asked General Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command, to take direct role in training specific numbers of proficient and mobile light infantry capable of defeating Al-Shabaab. These forces will also be trained to help protect communities and assist with basic human needs, while respecting human rights and the rule of law,” Mattis said.

Civilian casualties

Military support from the US however comes with a price for President Farmaajo who has to convince Somalis the support would not be counter-productive.

President Trump February approved revised operating procedures for US forces in Somalia giving more latitude to the forces to institute targeted killings against Al-Shabaab. In the procedures, Trump declared parts of Somalia a ‘warzone’ raising concerns among humanitarian agencies who warned of civilian casualties given the mass movement of people in search of food in the ongoing drought.

Budget cuts

The Trump administration announced major cuts in its budget last month scaling down programmes aimed at providing much needed support to countries such as Somalia. Notable are cuts to the UN whose agencies provide humanitarian support to millions of Somalis in the ongoing drought and up to 30% cut for the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

It remains to be seen if the US will convince the UAE to drop its bid for military base in Somaliland in favour of a more coordinated support through the Gulf Cooperation Council and other Arab organisations.

 

 

 

 


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