al Shabaab remains a threat, mainly because of the difficulty in creating and maintaining effective army and police forces. Somalia has never before had a national military or police force and ancient tribal (or clan) rivalries and rampant corruption make it extremely difficult to create any national institutions. The United States alone has invested $600 million in recruiting, training and maintaining a Somali Army and that force currently has 20,000 troops on the payroll. Because of the corruption an unknown number of these soldiers do not exist except as payroll entries. This is a notorious scam (“phantom soldiers”) in corrupt areas for officers to steal money. There are many other more direct ways and it is considered bad manners to not steal, especially when someone in your family or clan is in desperate need. Family comes first and to hell with everyone else. The corruption hurts everyone and a major appeal of groups like al Shabaab is the promise to eliminate corruption via the establishment of a religious dictatorship and implementation of sharia (Islamic law). That has been tried many times in the past and never worked. Islamic scripture insists it will and the most faithful Moslems should keep trying, at whatever cost. That is where al Shabaab is coming from and what keeps them going. That and a lot of criminal activity and corruption.
In addition to the armed forces there are 22,000 African peacekeepers and several hundred special operations troops. There are also several hundred thousand armed men in clan militias. These are purely for local defense and are often of uncertain loyalty. The militias will make deals with al Shabaab if the Islamic terrorists show up in force and there is no likelihood of support from the army or peacekeepers. Al Shabaab exploits this situation as do a large number of local hustlers.
It was recently revealed that British and Jordanian commandos had joined their American and French counterparts operating in Somalia against al Shabaab. This has been going on since late 2015. The CIA and American Special Forces have been in Somalia for over a decade. In 2014 the U.S. admitted that it has had personnel in Somalia since 2007 and that in 2014 there were 120 Americans in Somalia. This was no secret as since 2005 there were reports of an American compound in Mogadishu and occasionally there were reports of American Special Forces or CIA personnel from that base carrying out intelligence missions in other parts of the country. The U.S. would never admit there were American operatives stationed in Somalia but would acknowledge the occasional military action.
Currently there appear to be fewer than 200 Americans in Somalia, plus several hundred contractors (many of them Somali). Several air fields support UAV and manned recon aircraft operations. The intel provided to the peacekeepers has played a large role in the success of operations against al Shabaab. These U.S. personnel are controlled by AFRICOM and supported by a large Franco-American special operations base in neighboring Djibouti. France and the United States SOCOM (Special Operations Command) have had special operations forces (commandos and special aircraft) outside the Djibouti capital since 2002. In 2014 the U.S. signed another ten year lease for that base. U.S. forces in Djibouti were increased after resistance collapsed in Iraq in 2008 and the base is now the command post for a network of American operations through the region. Until recently most of the effort is directed at monitoring what is going on in the region (mainly Somalia and Yemen but also Eritrea, Nigeria, Mali, Libya, Kenya, and Ethiopia) not at interfering with the local terrorists. That has now changed with a growing international force of commandos operate from the Djibouti base which also supports operations throughout the Sahel (the semi-desert strip between the North African desert and the Central African jungles, which stretches from the Atlantic to Somalia).
March 28, 2016: Some 750 kilometers north of Mogadishu (Galmudug) clan militiamen fought a large force of al Shabaab men who had recently become active in Puntland but were now fleeing south. In four days of fighting 115 Islamic terrorists were killed and 110 captured. Losses for the Galmudug militias were not revealed. Galmudug is an autonomous region of Somalia just south of the self-declared state of Puntland. Galmudug was formed in 2006 and has a population of about 1.8 million. Northern Somalia has been better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990 to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south, has been in perpetual chaos since 1990 and the new government there is still a work-in-progress.
March 27, 2016: For the second time in three weeks a warship on anti-piracy patrol near Somalia stopped and searched a ship and found a large shipment of weapons being smuggled to Somalia. This time it was a French frigate. On the 7th an Australian warship caught a fishing boat 300 kilometers off the coast of Oman and found over 2,000 weapons, most of them AK-47s. It was unclear if the weapons (which seemed to be from Iran).
March 23, 2016: Kenyan peacekeepers in southern Somalia warned the Kenyan national police across the border to increase security near the border. This was because the al Shabaab forces in southern Somalia had suffered several major defeats recently and lost some of their camps. In addition al Shabaab members who had formed a local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) had been fighting with al Shabaab. As a result many al Shabaab and ISIL men appear to be headed south to seek sanctuary in northern Kenya. Some would hide their weapons and go to one of the large Somali refugee camps but others would hold onto their weapons and operate as bandits.
March 20, 2016: Outside Mogadishu al Shabaab gunmen raided an army base overnight killing dozens of soldiers and stealing nine vehicles filled with weapons and other loot. The government claims troops repulsed the attack and inflicted heavy casualties.
In the south near the Kenyan border Kenyan troops clashed with a group of al Shabaab, killed 13 and captured the al Shabaab commander involved.
March 19, 2016: Some 400 kilometers southwest of the capital (Mogadishu) al Shabaab ambushed some Kenyan peacekeepers and killed two. But the Kenyan troops counterattacked and killed 21 of the Islamic terrorists and seized nearly all their weapons. Some of the al Shabaab got away.
March 16, 2016: In the south (Lower Juba) Kenyan peacekeepers found and attacked an al Shabaab camp, killing 19 Islamic terrorists and seizing many weapons and much equipment.
March 15, 2016: In the north, just across the border in Puntland a large force (about a hundred) of al Shabaab gunmen took control of coastal towns (Garad and Suuj) and several nearby villages. The local militias and many civilians fled. Puntland began gathering forces to drive the Islamic terrorists out as “invasions” like this have happened before. The next day the Puntland forces began attacking and killed 11 Islamic terrorists. More al Shabaab men showed up until there were nearly 500 of them but more local militiamen also arrived and eventually the al Shabaab force fled south for the Somali border (and Galmudug).
March 14, 2016: Kenya and Somalia have agreed to coordinate their border security efforts. This includes regular exchanges of relevant intelligence information. The two countries also agreed to promptly turn over illegal border crossers to their country of origin. This will reduce border crossings by outlaws to escape pursuit. Meanwhile corruption and mismanagement have stalled work on the 700 kilometer long Kenyan border fence.