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101st Airborne Division platoon provides secure training area for historic Somali National Army training

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By Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood CJTF-HOA PAO Djibouti

On May 24, 2017, nearly 60 Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers from a Danab battalion graduated from a U.S.-led logistics training course offered at Mogadishu, Somalia. This historic graduation, the first of three to be offered this year by U.S. Africa Command, was carried out by a small team of fewer than 20 total U.S. trainers and security personnel from the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

Particularly in an area where only six years ago Al-Shabaab was a dominant group, good security is necessary for any activity there.

“We couldn’t have done it without our force protection team,” said Capt. Seth Church, who was the training team officer-in-charge. “They provided us a secure area to do the training.”

All of the security personnel were from the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade, 1st Battalion, Delta Company, 3rd Platoon, which laid the groundwork for securing the six-week training course.

First Lt. Conner Anderson, force protection officer-in-charge, said that being a part of the 327th Infantry Regiment, “Bastogne” Brigade, has also given his team a valuable experience working with international partners.

“There’s always a language barrier that you have to overcome, but over time we developed an understanding between each other. The Danab were a respectable group; we didn’t have any problems.”

The platoon played a vital role in the overall success of the logistics course, ensuring the safety of all parties involved. Each day the soldiers started earlier and ended later to ensure a secure training environment.

Sgt. Geoff Copus, 3rd Platoon squad leader said, “We provide force protection measures for not only the trainers but also for the Danab personnel. We meet them at the gate every morning and escort them to the training site; we also convoy with them.”

“Our main focus is to keep them protected,” he emphasized. “On the training site we are protecting both the trainers and the Danab. At the end of the day we escort them off the installation.”

Copus added that he has enjoyed being a part of this mission, “I’m excited to be a part of this, it’s a historic mission.”

During the training, they inspected and secured the classrooms, the gate, and the vehicle storage areas. In addition to securing the training site, they also accompanied the SNA during vehicle-operation and convoy training outside of the training area. At the end of each day, they safely escorted the SNA off the installation.

At the May 24 graduation ceremony, the platoon secured the area for the attendance of distinguished visitors like the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre, Somalia’s Chief of Defense, Gen. Ahmed Mohamed Jimcale, and the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz.

Although providing security for training courses is not part of the platoon’s day-to-day responsibilities at their home station, they rose to the challenge and learned some lessons in international relations.

“It’s been a challenge because it’s not what we normally do.” Anderson explained, “Back home, we’re a heavy weapons platoon for an infantry battalion. As the first group for this type of training course, we had to prepare ourselves for anything. We had to build trust both ways.”

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Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Briefing Room

Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.

SUSPICION, RESENTMENT

The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Puntland President calls UAE continue its mission in Somalia

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