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Somaliland is a de facto autonomous state in the Horn of Africa that is regarded to be a part of Somalia by the majority of countries. Somaliland is located in the Horn of Africa, on the southern shore of the Gulf of Aden, and is the world's smallest country. Its northern and western borders are shared with Djibouti, while its southern and western borders are shared with Ethiopia and its eastern boundary is shared with Somalia. Its claimed territory has an area of 176,120 square kilometres (68,000 square miles), and its population is expected to reach roughly 5.7 million by 2021. Hargeisa is the country's capital and biggest city. The government of Somaliland considers itself to be the successor state of British Somaliland, which, as the temporarily autonomous State of Somaliland, joined with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) in 1960 to establish the Somali Republic, which was subsequently abolished.

It was roughly 10,000 years ago, during the Neolithic era, when Somaliland was first populated. Cattle and other animals were reared by the ancient shepherds, and the region is home to some of the most colourful rock art paintings seen anywhere in Africa. Over the course of the Middle Ages, Arab immigrants arrived in Somaliland, including the Muslim sheikhs Ishaaq bin Ahmed, who founded the Isaaq clan, and Abdirahman bin Isma'il al-Jabarti, who founded the Darod clan. Both sheikhs travelled from Arabia to Somaliland and married into the local Dir clan, and their journeys have been described as legends. Similarly, throughout the Middle Ages, Somali rulers, such as the Sultanate of Ifat and the Adal Sultanate, controlled regional commerce.

Sultan Guled Abdi created the Isaaq Sultanate at Toon in the 18th century as a Somali successor state to the Adal Sultanate, which lasted until the early 20th century. Besides spanning sections of the Horn of Africa and covering much of modern-day Somaliland, the sultanate served as the country's pre-colonial forebears. The sultanate had a flourishing economy, and commerce was considerable at its major port of Berbera and the smaller port town of Bulhar, as well as eastwards at the frankincense-exporting port towns of Heis, Karin, and El-Darad, which were all located in the sultanate's eastern region.

In the late 19th century, the United Kingdom entered agreements with the Habr Awal, Garhajis, Habr Je'lo, Warsangeli, Issa, and Gadabuursi tribes, so creating a protectorate over their lands and territories in Afghanistan.

Those commanded by Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, the leader of the Dervishes, were opposed to the protection arrangements struck with Britain on behalf of the Somali sultans. A series of dervishes-led campaigns against British colonists took place between 1900 and 1902. In the 1920 Somaliland Campaign, the Dervishes were eventually defeated and expelled from the country. The protectorate won independence as the State of Somaliland on June 26, 1960, before joining with the Trust Territory of Somaliland, which had earned freedom five days earlier, to establish the Somali Republic on June 28, 1960, after its own independent independence.