Turkey is set to open a military base in Somalia to help train African soldiers to fight the al-Shabab militant group, the pro-government Daily Sabah reported Tuesday. The announcement comes several months after Turkish officials announced plans to establish their first military base abroad in Qatar at a time the country has seen growing regional threats.
"This military training center will also be an important base to provide military training to all of Africa," Emil Tekin, an official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said last week, according to Daily Sabah. An agreement between the Turkish and Somali governments includes plans for 200 Turkish officers to train more than 1,500 Somali troops. Soldiers from other African countries will also be trained at the site, which will be located in the capital Mogadishu. Turkey also plans to build a military school, officials said.
Al-Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate, has launched a violent insurgency against the Somali government since 2006. The group rules over rural areas, and has imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Alongside the Somali government, African Union soldiers are stationed in Somalia to help defeat the group.
Turkey has played a significant role in Somalia for the last half-decade. The Middle East power has donated hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian to Somalia, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who at the time was prime minister, became the world’s first head of state to visit Somalia in nearly two decades in 2011. He brought his family along with him to raise awareness of starvation in the country.
Turkey has expanded its influence internationally in the last decade, as its economy saw great success a few years ago. In December, Turkish officials announced plans to open their first base abroad in Qatar. Both countries are generally aligned along similar political lines, and Turkey said a military base in the Gulf state would help them confront “common enemies.”