The Wall Street Journal
Caught In A Political Crossfire, U.S.-Trained Somali Commandos Suspend Fight Against Islamic State
With American forces gone, a skirmish breaks out over one of Somalia’s elite counterterrorism units
By Michael M. Philips
NAIROBI—A Somali commando unit trained by Central Intelligence Agency operatives and U.S. Navy SEALs has become so entangled in local political power struggles that it has ceased operations against the Islamist militants it was created to fight.
Until last year, the 600-strong Puntland Security Force had reported directly to U.S. forces and was largely independent of Somali government control. But now the unit, the main force combating Islamic State’s Somali affiliate, ISIS-Somalia, has abandoned the front lines and returned to its headquarters in the northeastern port of Bosaso, overlooking the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. officials and Somalis familiar with the situation.
The troops have dug defensive positions around their headquarters building in a standoff with forces loyal to the state president of Puntland, a semiautonomous region, who is trying to bring the unit under his control.
The unit has also halted missions against al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s local franchise and the most powerful insurgent group in Somalia. “Already they have vacated all of their front-line positions, and ISIS and al-Shabaab have free rein to move around and expand—nobody’s stopping them,” said Mohamed Mubarak, a Somali political analyst and executive director of an anticorruption charity, marqaati.”