Al-Shabaabhas suffered enormous setbacks
Al-Shabaab may control large swathes of rural south and central Somalia but in recent months the radical group has suffered enormous setbacks, including territorial losses, high-ranking commanders killed and major defections.
The Somalia National Army (SNA) has received adequate training from AMISOM and allies including Turkey and the US army and has formed specialized units like GORGOR and DANAB who have been relentless in their onslaughts against the Al-Qaida linked group which has led to al-Shabaab losing numerous towns and hide out bases inside Somalia.
Al-Shabaab’s set-backs are the result of enhanced and coordinated campaigns including drone strikes that has eliminated high-profile leaders and weakened its military capacity. Furthermore, the highly trained and well-equipped special units of SNA are demonstrating greater military effectiveness, a sign that Somalia is ready to take back its country from Al-Shabaab.
Last year, a drone strike by the US army killed 150 militants in a training camp inHiiraan region. Other successful assaults were launched by the U.S-trained Danab Brigade – an elite, 570-strong commando force from the Somali army.
Most recently the brigade killed Mohammed Mahmoud Ali “Dulyadeen” or “Kuno”, a leading commander responsible for the attack on Kenya’s Garissa university college that killed 147 students.
The Kenya Defense Forces(KDF) has also intensified its crackdown on the militant group with both aerial and ground offensives.
On March last year, following a successful raid on their camp at Nginda area, a location between Korisa and Bargoni in Lamu County, KDF killed 12 al-Shabaab militants, including a notorious commander from the Coast region who has been providing intelligence and logistical support to the terrorists who have been hiding inside the Boni forest.
The attack is believed to have disoriented the terror group as the camp was the only one remaining in Kenya which the terrorists were using to coordinate their activities.
Towards the end of last year, Special Forces from the Kenyan military, in a dawn raid, killed four al-Shabaab militants and recovered communication equipment and weapons that were being used by the terror group to coordinate attacks in the Lamu area that borders Somalia.
Down but not out…
‘Reckless political utterances and throwing around unsubstantiated statistics will not help in the fight against al-Shabaab; rather it will boost the morale of the terror group.”
Al-Shabaab may have been weakened but it’s not completely dead.
The group can still hit hard against the Somali Government and its allies, including the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Soft targets like government offices and hotels in Mogadishu and civilian passenger buses in North Eastern Kenya are regularly subject to Al-Shabaab attacks.
Recently the group killed a six months old baby, his mother and 5 other passengers who were travelling from kismayu to Dhobley, near the Kenyan-Somalia border.
In yet another attack targeting innocent civilians, Al-Shabaab militants attacked an ambulance ferrying a pregnant woman to the hospital and killed her husband .The ambulance was on the way to Elwak Referral Hospital when it came under attack by gunmen. The driver of the ambulance and a paramedic were also injured in the dreadful attack.
Sustaining the gains made against terrorism…
Intensive efforts must continue if the gains that have been made against Al-Shabaab are to be sustained. There is an urgent need for a concerted program of reconciliation at all levels.
Any strengthening of Somalia’s federal states, including Jubaland, Puntland and South West States, represents animmense threat to Al-Shabaab. Greater stabilization support to the more fundamental federal entities will also help. But to greatly undermine Al-Shabaab’s ideology, leaders must create and act on a coherent narrative.
Despite effective U.S. training for specialized commando units, overall attempts to rebuild the Somali National Army could be strengthened by better harmonization among the large number of others involved in their training.
Reckless political utterances and throwing around unsubstantiated statistics will not help in the fight against al-Shabaab; rather it will boost the morale of the terror group.
The recent remarks by the governor of Mandera County, that Al-Shabaab controls half of North Eastern Kenya, is a cock and bull story; a misusage of statistics- purposeful or not – thatfabricates the reality on the ground. Al-Shabaab does not have a base in Kenya’s north eastern region but occasionally stages cross border attacks targeting mainly noncombatants and sometimes security forces manning the border areas.