Somalia Faces ‘Pivotal Year’ as Crises Open on Several Fronts

A 10-year defense and economic deal with Turkey to protect its seacoast and bolster its naval force. An agreement with the United States to construct five military bases for over $100 million. An enhanced defense cooperation accord with Uganda to boost the fight against the terrorist group Al Shabab.

The three security pacts signed by Somalia in recent days underscore the increasing perils the Horn of Africa nation faces both internally and externally.

Internally, the nation confronts the persistent threat of Al Shabab, the Qaeda affiliate that has remained resilient even as the departure date for African Union peacekeeping forces — whose offensives helped put the group on the back foot — looms in December.

Equally worrisome, tensions are growing between Somalia and its western neighbor, Ethiopia, over Somalia’s coastline — the longest in mainland Africa — threatening to set off a new conflict in a vital global shipping route in an increasingly volatile region.

Somalia faces “a pivotal year,” said Omar S. Mahmood, the senior Eastern Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group. “A number of critical timelines linked to both domestic politics and security are coinciding, and the way these are handled will determine the country’s trajectory.”

Members of the elite Danab unit in the Somali army who are advised by U.S. Special Operations forces. The United States plans to build up to five bases for the unit.

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