[Dehai-WN] Gcreport.com: Somali conflict continues after Mogadishu

[Dehai-WN] Gcreport.com: Somali conflict continues after Mogadishu

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2011 23:14:28 +0200

Somali conflict continues after Mogadishu


Written by Sim Tack

Tuesday, 04 October 2011 12:51


Somalia has recently made the headlines all over the world. The attention
and response to the famine in Somalia, as well as the improving situation in
Mogadishu, has allowed the Somali government to strengthen ties with
international organizations and other states. While the humanitarian
situation has taken the forefront, and while some have called out victory
after the withdrawal of Al Shabaab from Mogadishu, the conflict in Southern
Somalia rages on and Al Shabaab is far from collapsing and giving up control
of the areas it claims.


Since Al Shabaab withdrew from the capital the government has been unable to
guarantee security within the capital. Ambushes and terrorist attacks have
happened and are likely to keep happening in the near future. In other
regions of South Somalia Islamist forces have retaken the offensive and keep
a constant pressure on government troops and their allies. While fighting
this war the government is also overloaded with managing the humanitarian
disaster in Somalia. Famine is putting a huge stress on Somalia and many
victims can not be reached in territories under Al Shabaab control. Foreign
forces have increased their involvement in the Somali conflict through air
strikes and drone coverage of South Somalia. While this could put a much
needed pressure on the activities of the Al Shabaab leadership, it has
already brought a certain amount of collateral damage with it.

In August Al Shabaab rebels withdrew their forces from the frontlines in
Mogadishu. Until that moment the capital had been literally split in half by
a frontline that divided the government-controlled territory from that under
control of the Islamist rebels. Soon after this withdrawal certain members
of the Transitional Federal Government were quick to claim victory over the
Al Shabaab. Some analysts even claimed that being unable to hold on to
Mogadishu was a sign of weakness and signaled the oncoming collapse of the
Islamist rebel movement. While it is true that the TFG has gained a certain
freedom by being able to assert more control over its own capital, the fight
against the Al Shabaab is all but over. Ambushes of government troops and
bomb attacks have been mounted within Mogadishu ever since the retreat. What
used to be a conventional conflict over the capital has now transformed once
again into a conflict dominated by guerilla tactics. While the government
can now officially claim control over the capital, the fight it now faces is
one it is ill-equipped for. The TFG troops, backed by the AMISOM
peacekeeping force, was already suffering problems controlling the
conventional frontline in Mogadishu before, but it can only encounter more
problems trying to control the hidden Al Shabaab activity it faces now. The
car bomb explosion that took place near government buildings at the K4 point
in Mogadishu on the morning of the publication of this article only proves
the inability for the government to transform the current situation into

One must keep in mind, of course, that the TFG is not only faced with the
quest of securing Mogadishu and in fact all of the country. The famine that
rages through the country has brought an insane amount of pressure on the
government that now needs to provide food aid, security for aid agencies and
safe environments for internally displaced persons. While the international
community has been slow to react to the signs of famine at first, the effort
it has mounted at this point in time is enormous. Somalis in camps in Kenya
and Ethiopia as well as those near Mogadishu are finding their way to food
aid. The regions struck hardest by the famine are, however, under control of
the Al Shabaab and providing food to people there proves to be difficult.
While some initiatives have been successful, reports of Al Shabaab forces
claiming food deliveries and detaining people that seek to leave territory
under their control are many. Problems of diverted food aid occur in all
parts of Somalia, but the situation in areas under Islamist control is
worrying. The TFG's fight for security is not only a struggle for political
control, but also presents a humanitarian aspect by the necessity to open up
more regions of Somalia to urgently needed food aid and sustainable

Outside of Mogadishu the government has also been facing a very difficult
military situation. In the west of the country the TFG still has certain
active fronts after an offensive there had ground to a halt earlier this
year. TFG troops and Ahla Sunna militia defend a region in Gedo bordering
Kenya and Ethiopia as well as the border town of Dhobley along with the Raas
Kambooni Brigade in the Lower Juba region. The Gedo offensive has so far
still failed to push on to Baardheere, the obvious and announced next target
of this military push. Instead Al Shabaab forces have started to challenge
the government presence in Luuq, Garbaharey and even further into the
government bridgehead in Belet Haawo. Recent attacks mounted by Al Shabaab
have shown that TFG troops and their allies are unable to push the Al
Shabaab back. Instead the Al Shabaab has regained the initiative in these
regions and keeps a constant pressure on the government troops that limits
them from expanding their control, it barely allows them to hold on to the
territory they have gained. In the Lower Juba region a fierce Al Shabaab
attack has even forced government troops and the Raas Kambooni Brigade to
abandon the border town of Dhobley only to retake it a day later. Al Shabaab
forces are reported to remain active in all regions surrounding these
government positions and further attacks could happen at any given time.

In the central regions of the country strategic towns remain the subject of
fierce opposition from both sides. In the Hiiraan region the Al Shabaab
control over Belet Weyne is threatened by maneuvers by TFG forces, Ahla
Sunna militia and the Shabelle Valley militia. Ahla Sunna fighters have been
able to gain control of parts of the town, including the airport south of
the main part of town. All sides have been making deliberate preparations
for ongoing combat and the situation in Belet Weyne is expected to lead to
more fighting even though Al Shabaab has been able to stand its ground
against many offensives in Belet Weyne. In the Galguduud region Islamist
forces have taken a strategic town near Dhusamareeb and even succeeded at
briefly overtaking Dhusamareeb itself. This morning Ahla Sunna fighters that
previously controlled the town were able to regain control after Al Shabaab
forces had vacated their positions during the night. The position of Al
Shabaab in Galguduud seems to have become stronger and it could be within
their possibilities to gain full control of the region.

In the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, which has usually been spared of
real fighting between government forces and Islamist rebels, militias linked
to Al Shabaab have started waging a conventional struggle against Puntland
forces. Targetted killings that are suspected to be the work of Al Shabaab
have been taking place in Puntland for quite some time, but the recent
military operations in the mountains in North Puntland are a worrying
evolution. The fighting is nowhere near the intensity and scale of that in
South Somalia but if Puntland does not manage to control this activity it
may lose its advantage of being the more stable region in the Somali

Another interesting development in the Somali conflict is the growing
involvement of outside forces. A number of airstrikes and drone strikes, as
well as numerous incidents involving crashed drones, have shown that
capabilities that are not accessible by the TFG are being used in the war
against the Al Shabaab. According to reports some of these strikes happen in
coordination with AMISOM and the TFG and target Al Shabaab leadership and
training facilities. Due to a lack of intelligence on what exactly is
happening on the ground in Somalia these airstrikes have come to be known as
an instrument of blunt force that has lead to numerous mishaps and civilian
casualties. Although at times drone strikes and airstrikes have proven
extremely useful against Al Shabaab, the recent surge in volume of such
attacks has brought with it a certain amount of collateral damage. The
airstrikes are usually attributed to the air forces of Kenya, Ethiopia or
the United States. All of these countries have been known to operate in
Somali air space in the past. The recent kidnapping across the Kenyan border
provide a growing incentive for the Kenyan government to become involved in
the fight against the Islamist rebels in Somalia. The activity of drones
above Somalia could be partially explained by the delivery of unarmed drones
to Uganda and Burundi, which make up the AMISOM peacekeeping force in
Mogadishu, as part of a larger 45 million dollar military aid package. While
these unarmed UAV could explain the sudden trend of drones falling from the
sky, it does not explain strikes executed by drones which can only be
expected to be the work of the United States military in support of the TFG.

As can be seen from the evolutions across the theater of the Somali
conflict, the Islamist withdrawal from Mogadishu has not brought an end to
the war at all. On the contrary, it seems that the tactical withdrawal has
allowed Al Shabaab to reposition its troops and present a larger threat to
government allied forces in other regions of South Somalia. The ambushes
during the last months and the large bomb attack this morning also show that
the Al Shabaab still has reach within the city of Mogadishu, and even after
the withdrawal the TFG is unable to secure the capital. From the government
side military operations in the rest of the country remain uncoordinated and
unsuccessful, the sustainability of gains made earlier this year in the Gedo
and Lower Juba regions is now to be doubted even more than before. The Al
Shabaab forces seem to have retaken the offensive in the conflict, and the
recent history of the conflict has shown that the government forces are
usually unable to stand their ground in such a situation. The campaign of
airstrikes and drone activity could have an effect on Islamist freedom of
operation as it forces executive leadership to stay in hiding, limiting
their ability to command and causing dissatisfaction amongst Al Shabaab


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Received on Fri Oct 07 2011 - 17:14:36 EDT
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