Anti-al Shabaab forces significant victory in ongoing offensive in central Somalia

Anti-al Shabaab Forces Significant Victory In Ongoing Offensive In Central Somalia
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Thursday, January 19, 2023: Anti–al Shabaab is forcing increased pressure on al Shabaab in central Somalia by capturing district capitals that al Shabaab has used for logistics and finance.

The current offensive, which began in the summer of 2022, is the first Somali-led offensive against al Shabaab and the biggest challenge to al Shabaab’s presence in central Somalia since 2015. Somali forces and local clan militias, with US and Turkish drone support, cleared al.

Shabaab from its former strongholds in the eastern Hiraan region of central Somalia in September 2022. They also cleared the Middle Shabelle region from October to December and began clearing operations in the Galgudud and Mudug regions in late December and early January.

Anti-al Shabaab forces, including US-trained special forces, captured two district capitals – Harardhere and El Dheere – in north-central Somalia on 16 and 17 January. These takeovers mark an important symbolic and military victory for anti-al Shabaab forces, which had been unable to enter Harardhere since al Shabaab took over the city in 2008.

The capture of Harardhere and El Dheere also eliminates al Shabaab’s two main ports on the central Somalia’s coast, cutting key supply and smuggling routes that support the group’s activities in central Somalia. Somalia.

Al Shabaab weathers the offensive by retreating and regrouping to launch counterattacks from the countryside. It used these rear staging areas to launch a wave of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attacks in the Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions beginning in early January.

The group has carried out at least six SVBIED attacks in the Middle Shabelle and Hiraan regions since January 4, using at least 12 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) across the attacks.

Somali security forces also seized four unused VBIEDs in the Middle Shabelle region on 8 and 11 January. Al Shabaab is likely to use the same strategy of retreat and counterattack in north-central Somalia.

The group’s soldiers withdrew from Harardhere and El Dheere before security forces arrived. The Somali federal government is trying to beat back the upcoming counterattacks by garrisoning major cities and using local militias to target al Shabaab staging areas.

Somali forces have so far repelled two large-scale al Shabaab suicide raids on its positions in central Somalia in January.

Alternatively, Harardhere’s rapid fall may indicate that al Shabaab forces in central Somalia are overstretched and lacking in morale.

Anti-al Shabaab forces quickly captured Harardhere and took over the district capital just 10 days after starting operations in Mudug. Al Shabaab has also not yet attacked anti-al Shabaab forces in Mudug.

This relatively quiet reaction is notable because al Shabaab appears to be ceding more valuable terrain with less resistance compared to earlier in the campaign.

In addition, two al Shabaab factions reportedly clashed north of Harardhere on December 31, killing 12 militants, after one group tried to defect.

These factors suggest that al Shabaab forces may have been unable or unwilling to mount a meaningful defense in north-central Somalia. However, the group is likely to launch a counter-offensive in the future and maintains significant strategic depth in Somalia.