As Somalia Prepares for the Next Phase in the Fight Against Al-Shabab, International Collaboration is Needed
By Deeq S Yusuf
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Security analysts in Somalia and beyond are optimistic about the current anti-terror offensive led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (HSM). This campaign stands out from previous ones due to the stronger Somali National Army (SNA) leading the operations, supported by local partners. Unlike foreign-led efforts in the past, the Somali army has been responsible for inflicting heavy losses on Al-Shabab, demonstrating its capability to defeat the insurgents in major counter-terrorism operations.
Counter-terrorism experts have provided different definitions of the term. Some describe it as efforts to constrain or suppress terrorist assaults by non-state actors, while others view it as a proactive attempt to prevent politically motivated violence. Counter-terrorism strategies can include various approaches, such as special legislation, specialized units, military intervention, media management, and negotiated settlements.
Building partnerships with the civilian population is a crucial element in counter-terrorism. President HSM has successfully rallied the support of the Somali public, who have joined the fight against terrorists. Furthermore, HSM has adopted a multi-prong strategy that confronts terrorists militarily, challenges their ideology, and targets their financial networks.
HSM’s depoliticization of security forces has allowed the SNA to focus on combating Al-Shabab and has restored a sense of duty and patriotism within its ranks. In terms of ideology, HSM organized a conference where Somali scholars condemned Al-Shabab’s extremist views, receiving support from over 300 Islamic clerics. The ongoing offensive also includes efforts to disrupt Al-Shabab’s financing and governance.
To effectively fight terrorism, a global coalition similar to the one against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is needed. This coalition should provide financial and material support to Somalia, help dismantle Al-Shabab’s networks, counter its ambitions, and prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the country.
The biggest challenge in the ongoing fight is consolidation. The Somali government must fortify its gains in the central regions to prevent Al-Shabab from rebounding. Assistance in terms of education, livelihoods, and repatriation of displaced residents is crucial. Somali security forces also need adequate weaponry and communication systems, which require the lifting of the arms embargo.
In preparation for the second-round offensive, Somalia can benefit from internationally supported efforts to strengthen its law enforcement and judicial capabilities, enhance security measures, improve intelligence sharing, freeze terrorist assets, improve crisis response, and counter violent extremism.
Aside from state-led efforts, the international community can support HSM’s calls for counter violent extremism programs by empowering affected communities and encouraging the participation of women and youth.
The involvement of a global coalition in the second-round offensive against Al-Shabab is necessary to achieve a lasting peace and a terror-free Somalia.