Changing Military Strategies Emerge as Somalia Combats al-Shabab
Thursday September 7, 2023
The Somali government has announced plans to change its military tactics in the fight against al-Shabab due to increased resistance and threats from the militants, according to senior officials who spoke to VOA Somali.
Under the new strategy, local community fighters will take the lead role in combating al-Shabab, with the federal government forces providing support. The government will register these fighters and offer them monthly stipends as incentives for their participation. The long-term goal is to integrate them into the army.
The national intelligence agency will be responsible for registering and vetting the fighters to prevent any infiltration by militants.
This approach is a return to the successful tactic that allowed the government and local fighters to seize large areas from al-Shabab between August 2022 and January 2023.
Former national intelligence chief Brigadier General Abdirahman Turyare, who is now involved in mobilizing these local fighters, confirmed the tactical changes in an interview with VOA Somali.
“The current mobilization is different from what was happening in the past few months, where the focus was solely on the national armed forces,” Turyare stated. He further explained that the plan is to rest some frontline soldiers and replace them with newly trained forces, while empowering local militias and giving the local community a leading role in the fight.
This shift in tactics follows a setback suffered by a federal army-led operation when al-Shabab attacked two military brigades sent deep into their territory in Cowsweyne village last month.
The attack resulted in the retreat of government troops from several towns on the front lines, raising concerns about losing the areas seized from al-Shabab since August 2022.
In an effort to prevent further retreats, two senior officials advised President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud against visiting Gal’ad, as the situation there was volatile. Instead, Mahad Salad, the director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, and Colonel Hassan Ali Nur Shute, the chief of the military court, traveled to Gal’ad to address the soldiers and encourage them to hold their ground.
However, it was discovered that the government troops had already left Gal’ad when the officials were en route. Frantic messages were sent to the helicopter carrying them, urging them to turn around immediately. Thankfully, the pilot aborted landing and safely returned to Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab then claimed to have recaptured Gal’ad later that day.
President Mohamud announced that the government arrested some of the officers who deserted the front lines, and they will face trial in the military tribunal.
Despite the tactical changes, government officials emphasized that al-Shabab should not be underestimated. However, they believe that with public support and the mobilization of local communities, the Somali government will ultimately prevail in the war against al-Shabab.