Somalia Military - 2023


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Military and security forces

Ministry of Defense: Somali National Army (SNA); Ministry of Internal Security: Somali National Police (SNP, includes a maritime unit and a Turkish-trained commando unit known as Harmacad, or Cheetah); National Security and Intelligence Agency (includes a commando/counterterrorism unit) (2023)

note 1: Somalia has numerous militia (aka "macawisley") and regional forces operating throughout the country; these forces include ones that are clan- and warlord-based, semi-official paramilitary and special police forces (aka "darwish"), and externally-sponsored militias; the SNA is attempting to incorporate some of these militia units

note 2: Somaliland has army and naval forces under the Somaliland Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces

Military expenditures

6% of GDP (2021 est.)

6% of GDP (2020 est.)

5.6% of GDP (2019 est.)

6% of GDP (2018 est.)

5.9% of GDP (2017 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

estimates vary; up to 20,000 SNA personnel (2023)

note 1: in January 2023, the Somali Government said the SNA would have 24,000 trained and equipped troops by 2024

note 2: as of 2022, there were estimates of up to 50,000 militia forces operating in the country

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the SNA is lightly armed with an inventory that includes a variety of older, secondhand equipment largely from Italy, Russia, South Africa, and the UK; in recent years, it has received small quantities of equipment as aid/donations from a variety of countries, including the US (2023)

note: in 2022, the UN voted to maintain an arms embargo on Somali in place since 1992; however, the embargo was modified to reflect the Somali Government’s progress in improving its management of weapons and ammunition; it includes allowing Somalia to import portable surface-to-air missiles, higher-caliber mortars, anti-tank guided weapons, some aircraft and vessels designed or modified for military use, and combat drones for use by its security forces and police — unless the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions objects within five working days of receiving notification from the Somali Government

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service for men and women; conscription of men aged 18-40 and women aged 18-30 is authorized, but not currently utilized (2023)

note: in 2019, the Federal Government of Somalia renewed its commitment to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by signing a roadmap detailing measures and practical actions to prevent violations against children, release children associated with armed forces, and reintegrate them into communities; the signing followed a similar accord committed to ending the use of child soldiers signed by both the Somali Transitional Government and the UN in 2012

Military - note

the Somali National Army (SNA) and supporting security and militia forces are actively conducting operations against the al-Shabaab terrorist group (see Appendix T); al-Shabaab controls large parts of southern and central Somalia 

of the SNA’s approximately 13 brigades, the most effective are assessed to be the US-trained Danab ("Lightning") Advanced Infantry Brigade and those of the Turkish-trained Gorgor ("Eagle") Special Division; as of 2022, the Danab Brigade numbered about 1,500 troops with an eventual projected strength of 3,000, while the Gorgor Division was estimated to have up to 5,000 trained troops; the Somali Government has sent thousands of troops to Eritrea and Uganda for training and in 2023 announced plans to send additional personnel to Egypt and Ethiopia for training

the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) operated in the country with the approval of the UN from 2007-2022; its peacekeeping mission included assisting Somali forces in providing security for a stable political process, enabling the gradual handing over of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali security forces, and reducing the threat posed by al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups; in April 2022, AMISOM was reconfigured and replaced with the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS); the ATMIS mission is to support the Somalia Federal Government (FGS) in implementing the security objectives of the FGS's security transition plan, a comprehensive strategy developed by the FGS and its international partners in 2018 and updated in 2021 to gradually transfer security responsibilities from ATMIS to Somali security forces; ATMIS is projected to gradually reduce staffing from its 2022 level of about 20,000 personnel (civilians, military, and police) to zero by the end of 2024

UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM; established 2013) is mandated by the Security Council to work with the FGS to support national reconciliation, provide advice on peace-building and state-building, monitor the human rights situation, and help coordinate the efforts of the international community; the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS; established 2015) is responsible for providing logistical field support to ATMIS, UNSOM, and the Somali security forces on joint operations with ATMIS

the European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM-S) has operated in the country since 2010; the EUTM provides advice and training to the Somali military; the US, UK, and Turkey maintain separate military training missions in Somalia (the US has also supported the SNA with air strikes); the UAE maintains a military presence in Somaliland (2023)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center (PRC) reported no piracy attacks for the Horn of Africa in 2022; while there were no recorded incidents, the IMB PRC warned that Somali pirates continued to possess the capacity to carry out attacks in the Somali basin and wider Indian Ocean; the presence of several naval task forces in the Gulf of Aden and additional anti-piracy measures on the part of ship operators, including the use of on-board armed security teams, contributed to the drop in incidents; the EU naval mission, Operation ATALANTA, continues its operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean through 2024; naval units from China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, the US, and other countries also operate in conjunction with EU forces; China has established a base in Djibouti to support its deployed naval units in the Horn of Africa; the Maritime Administration of the US Department of Transportation has issued a Maritime Advisory (2023-003 - Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab al Mandeb Strait, Red Sea, and Somali Basin-Threats to Commercial Vessels) effective 23 February 2023, which states in part that "Regional conflict, military activity, and political tensions pose threats to commercial vessels operating in the above listed geographic areas"

NOTE: The information regarding Somalia on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Somalia 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Somalia 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.