Al-Shabaab compensates for lost territory by profiting from competing with foreign countries in Somalia
EDITORIAL – Al-Qaeda-linked Somalia-based Al-Shabaab this week ended a decade with yet another deadly attack on civilians; possibly bulging recent statements from government officials that the group jumped out.
But the incident, in which 85 people were killed and followed by another off the Kenyan coast, showed that the group could benefit from political strife in Somalia, probably due to outside interference.
Despite the Somali national army responding by killing more than a dozen militants, key Somali leaders have disagreed on whether Shabaabs acted alone. The Somali intelligence agency (NISA) claimed that a foreign country had helped plan the attack.
But critics argue that it may be too early to draw that conclusion.
“NISA’s message was apparently designed to cover the truth about the nature of the attack,” the opposition coalition’s forum for national parties said. [FNP], comments a statement from NISA chief Fahad Yasin.
The message was at first submissive to please a foreign audience involved in the geopolitical power struggle. “The second was deceptively reassuring to the Somali public, who were outraged by the death, damage and destruction of property as a result of the security agency’s failure to gather intelligence that could prevent the attack,” the coalition accused.
While the FNP and other critics argue that Somalia should reconsider its own security operations to address internal failures, the proposal by a foreign government sponsoring terror in Somalia was not new.
On July 22, 2019, the New York Times had published a report entitled “With Guns, Cash and Terrorism, Gulf States Vie for Power in Somalia” linking Qatar to a bomb attack in Bosaso, Puntland’s commercial city “to advance Doha’s interests in to run out of its rival, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) “.
Qatar has denied the allegations. According to a Axadlereport, the bomb blast took place on May 10, 2019 near the main court in the center of Bosaso, injuring at least ten people.
And although NISA did not mention the actual country this time, there was speculation that a competitor with Turkey could be the topic to which NISA referred.
Turkey and Qatar have been heavily involved in Somalia’s humanitarian scene. Turkey has built a hospital, provided emergency aid to the displaced and trained Somali forces. Along with Qatar, however, they are at the opposite end of another pair of Gulf nations: the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Yet in most of the recent deadly incidents in Somalia, al-Shabaab had failed to take credit publicly, apparently to avoid discouraging local populations. Last week’s incident, however, prompted them to acknowledge the attack only 72 hours later.
“If confirmed, this indicates that al-Shabaab is concerned that Turkey is training more SNA battalions. In war, you target your biggest threats, ”argued Paul D Williams, a professor at the Elliot School of International Affairs and a specialist in peacekeeping operations and new security threats.
Two Turkish nationals were killed, and Shabaabs apologized for the massive local civilian casualties, but did not say whether they sided with another foreign government.
“Let there be no doubt that (the attack) was carried out by al-Shabaab. We do not know what “brotherly country” paid for it, “said Adam Aw Hirsi, Jubaland’s Minister of Planning.
“To find out, we have to ask ourselves which ‘fraternal country’ wanted the Turkish engineers dead, so there is no more road construction,” he added.
Figures for al-Shabaab’s massacres are often heavily guarded as authorities struggle to show the group’s declining run. But based on conservative estimates, the group may have dropped as many as 1,500 people in Somalia and more in Kenya.
Last week’s attack was on the same day that the Somali lower house passed a crucial election law that could determine how the next election, to be expected later this year, will be conducted.
The bill proposed some controversial positions, particularly with regard to the form of voting, and the Somali Senate would decide exactly what the final law would look like. Yet the actual process of having this choice could at all be limited by the constant attacks from al-Shabaab.
Is the group stealing a march against the government and its politicians? Simon Mulongo, the Ugandan diplomat and deputy head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, suggested that al-Shabaab’s recent ambush was desperate.
“2019 will be remembered for achievements in degrading al-Shabaab, and despite challenges, including heinous attacks on our civilian population, we are still determined to continue the fight, and 2020 will be a historic year,” he said. on his Twitter page on New Year’s Eve.
In truth, al-Shabaab has been hard hit in the last three years and lost crucial territory inside Somalia. The U.S. African Command, Amisom and Somali forces have used air and ground means to target brains, as well as shared intelligence to eliminate more attacks than the group has actually launched them.
Still, the group changed tactics to survive, experts say. For example, it reduced direct combat and instead focused on suicide missions and car bombs near civilian areas using locally collected explosives, according to a November report by the UN panel of experts on Somalia.
In fact, in Somalia’s case, the group has tried to love itself with local communities by providing services such as court decisions in property cases and in return collecting ‘taxes’, the report said, which could explain ‘apology’. In fact, Mogadishu residents held a public protest on Thursday.
U.S. Major General William Gayler admitted this week that Al-Shabaab has continuously killed people to maintain their relevance and will continue to do so. “They are a global threat and their goal is to export violence regionally and eventually attack the US homeland,” he said in a statement issued by AFRICOM after US forces killed Al-Shabaab leaders in airstrikes in response to the killings in Mogadishu.
In fairness, NISA said it only presented a preliminary report indicating its improved form of communication. But some experts say Shabaabs are noticing rivalries among foreign powers as well as in local politics and could steal a march against the government.
“Anyone can use al-Shabaab these days for their gain. This is not new. So they could benefit from proxy wars, ”argued Dr. Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, Head of Nairobi’s Think Tank Southlink Consultants. According to him, the ongoing competition between Qatar and Turkey on the one hand and the UAE and Saudi Arabia on the other has placed Somalia as the scene of their proxy wars.
Some critics say President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo did not keep his promise to remain neutral in the Middle East blockade of Qatar and has since preferred Doha to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, allowing Qatar to increase its influence over Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab has joined the fight and is looking to work as thugs for both sides, depending on how it suits them.
“This is a clear collaboration with al-Shabaab,” argued Abdishakur Abdirahman, the leader of the Wadajir party, criticizing the conclusion that an unnamed foreign country was involved. ”[It] not only misleads the public, it covers up its failure, ”he added.
Somali Senator Ilyas Hassan told Axadlethat he would not rush to deny the possibility of foreign agents helping Al-Shabaab, but argued that Somalia’s security forces should first look at how Al-Shabaab had infiltrated the government, which he said. was the first challenge to tackle.
“[It] shows how desperate they are to divert the blame from their abuse and manipulation of security in Mogadishu, ”he said.
As Somalia is now a theater for proxy wars, some experts argue that the solution should be for Turkey and possibly Qatar to follow their growing humanitarian aid to Somalia with military support and strengthen the Somali national army.
“It is time for Turkey to engage limited land forces and equipment in the peace-building process,” said Kenya’s former lawmaker Farah Maalim, now an associate professor at the University of Nairobi.
“The [should] begin with a rapid withdrawal of troops from frontline states and allow SNA / Turkey / Burundi forces to smoke out al-Shabaab. He referred to neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, which have sent troops to AMISOM.
Some of the countries have previously been accused of playing proxy wars in Somalia, even though they serve to fight al-Shabaab. Maalim believes that the perception of AMISOM may change with a fine-tuning of the operations.
“A golden rule that all Somalia’s neighbors need to internalize and register in their memory is that Somalis fight among them until an uninvited guest joins the fight. They will then postpone the internal conflict, go together, expel the intruder first and then negotiate their conflict. ”
AMISOM’s downsizing plan is actually expected to start from next month with a contingent of 1000 AMISOM troops being pulled out.
Francisco Madeira, Mozambican diplomat and leader of AMISOM, said in a video message Tuesday night that while AMISOM will continue to fight Al-Shabaab, the goal now is to transfer duties to local forces.
“We are making preliminary plans for AMISOM to support the Somali security forces in creating a safe environment for a peaceful election process,” he said, referring to the planned election.
“As AMISOM, we are ready and willing to be a part of this process to ensure the success of this milestone election.” The problem, however, is who hires or pays Al-Shabaab to launch another attack.