In early 2010, frustrated by America's cold shoulder and the U.N.'s obsession with a Mogadishu-centric Somalia run by the incompetent Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Puntland's President Abdirahman Farole sought help from his biggest trading partner: The United Arab Emirates. The tiny, but oil-rich maritime trading nation had a vested interest in keeping the growing legions of al-Shabab fighters funneling into Puntland away from their ships and shoreline. Within weeks, not years, millions of dollars began to flow to build Puntland's security force.
In June 2012, two years after its creation, the UAE-funded PMPF -- now with helicopters, ocean-going ships, construction battalions, and a massive base -- was under pressure from Farole to become operational. He wanted the pirates cleared out by July. Coastal communities like Bargal, Bander Bayla, and Eyl were also pressuring Farole to support their homegrown efforts to expel pirates. The timing for the offensive was perfect: the monsoons that keep the pirates off the seas were about to set in; pirate crews would soon be coming off the oceans. This meant they would be much easier to reach as they chewed qat and consulted mystics about next season's catch.
But the program had another, more-formidable enemy, the U.N. -- specifically, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea (SEMG), a group that was created to document violations of the 20-year-old arms embargo in 2002 by warlord-run militias.