Counterterrorism Collaboration: Somali Danab’s Success at Justified Accord 2024

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Elite fighters from Somalia made history at Exercise Justified Accord 2024 (JA24). The Somali Danab is a special operations unit within the Somali National Army, playing a critical role in the nation’s ongoing measures to combat terrorism and stabilize the region. Justified Accord is successfully conducted annually in collaboration with the United States Africa Command and the Southern European Task Force, Africa. JA24 is a multinational exercise. 

From February 26 to March 7, more than 1,000 attendees from 23 African nations performed to counter-terrorism, build readiness, ready for African Union- and United Nations-mandated missions, and increase interoperability in backing crisis response, humanitarian contribution and disaster response. Kenya Army Lt. Col. Mohamed Omar expressed that JA24 was a chance for participating nations to build capacity and transfer knowledge throughout the training they received.

The Danab’s role in promoting stability and security in Somalia, and the broader Horn of Africa region, functions as a backdrop for their participation in JA24. The purpose was to improve their knowledge of counterterrorism tactics while building coalitions with others who have a shared regional security concern.

With smoke grenades delivering cover, a platoon of troops from Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania exchanged fire with violent extremists and explored a makeshift village, building by building. A Kenyan Air Force F-5E Tiger II jet fighter passed close to the ground to prevent further fighting before helicopters arrived to vacate a casualty. The platoon required just 28 minutes to completely remove the village of militants. The dramatic stage in Kenya on March 7 marked the culmination of Justified Accord 2024, the largest military exercise in East Africa.

“Everyone has made new friends and should be very proud of the results of your training,” Kenya Deputy Army Commander Maj. Gen. David Tarus informed participants during the closing ceremony at the Counter Insurgency Terrorism and Stability Operations Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya.

“We are building collaboration and relationships, which will ultimately give us an opportunity to deal with a shared threat, a security threat in this region of our Horn of Africa,” he stated.

Al-Shabaab, which is linked with al-Qaida and based in Somalia, poses a persistent threat to the region. Several Horn of Africa countries contribute soldiers to the AU stabilization mission in Somalia. Somali participants in this year’s exercise contained members of the elite Danab commando brigade.

“We are here to swap ideas and to also pick each other’s brains from different nations,” Danab Warrant Officer Mubarak Abdi Mohamed expressed. “I think that is the most important thing, to learn from each other and to have connections and friends in all these nations here with us. That is why JA is important for us — to make relationships.”

Danab 2nd Lt. Abdirahim Muse Mohamed conveyed the exchange of learning was a highlight, as was the understanding of being in Somalia’s more stable neighbour to the south. “We are very interested to know how things are in peacetime,” he stated. “There are no military checkpoints everywhere in this country.”

JA24 also featured an entourage officer course; a Women, Peace and Security panel; rule of law instruction; a veterinary exchange with K-9 tactical battle casualty care; and a command-post exercise at Nairobi’s Humanitarian Peace Support School. In Nanyuki, the Kenya Defence Forces hosted a multinational specialisation training exercise, urban operations training, and a medical civic action agenda that saw as many as 1,000 rural Kenyans receive medical care.

Second Lt. Mohamed Abdulaziz and his Djiboutian Bataillon d’intervention rapide (BIR) held urban operations training on February 28. “We are learning a lot of new skills we have never had before, like uncovering drones,” he stated. “We do not train with that in our nation. In our country there are also no forests like this, so we are learning how to take cover in the forest and battle through the trees.”

U.S. Capt. Alexander Roose, whose battalion in the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade operates closely with Djibouti’s BIR, expressed participants’ skills grew by “leaps and bounds” after training to destroy improvised explosive devices and unmanned aircraft systems. “It’s a pretty important event,” he stated. “[Justified Accord] aims to align multiple East African nations in order to form interoperability. We’re going to use this counterpart force specifically to solve African problems with African solutions.”

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