The United States and Somalia's government on Thursday signed a security pact that they presented as a road map toward building a functional Somali army, capable of taking over security responsibilities and the fight against Al Shabaab militants.

In a ceremony presided over by Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of five military bases for Somalia’s National Army (SNA). The bases will be built in Baidoa, Dhusamareb, Jowhar, Kismayo and Mogadishu.

According to a statement from Somalia’s National News Agency (Sonna) the bases will be for the Danab Brigade, the US-trained elite unit of the army.“Within several months we are looking forward to reaching the 3,000 Danab personnel target set in 2017. The Danab also is being prepared to take over many of the essential functions required to sustain and grow the force, and it is already taking on a greater responsibility for recruiting and training,” said Molly Phee, US assistant secretary of State for African Affairs.

Phee, who was at the ceremony, said the US is supporting Somalia so its army can take on Al Shabaab.“We recognise that reliance on temporary and often inadequate camps hamper the Danab’s preparedness and could represent an obstacle to the brigade’s sustainability and growth,” she said.“Our shared goal is to have the SNA exercise full control over base operations when the facilities are completed, and the MoU just provides the blueprint to do that,” she said.

She said the memorandum of understanding for construction of the bases “reflects our confidence in the future of the Danab and the scale of our investment in Somalia’s security.”Speaking at the ceremony, Mohamud thanked the US government for its support.“US investments in the SNA/Danab have borne fruit, fueling a formidable strike force that leads the offensives of the forces of Somali security against Al Shabaab,” Mohamud said.

The signing of the memorandum of understanding comes as tensions in the Horn of Africa simmer over a January 1 deal between Somaliland and Ethiopia. The deal would grant Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea in return for the possible recognition of breakaway Somaliland.

Somalia’s federal government vehemently criticized the deal, saying it would infringe on the country’s territory. Somaliland has operated independently from Somalia since 1991 but is not recognized by any other nation.

Last week, the Turkish and Somalia's defense ministers signed a defense and economic cooperation agreement to enhance relations.

During a visit to Cairo this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey has defense agreements with Libya, Somalia and Sudan, and that Ankara stands for maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these countries.

In January, after news broke of the Ethiopia-Somaliland deal, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt said, “Egypt will not allow any threat to Somalia.”

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