Somalia: The War Spreads


August 4, 2010: Western nations are still reluctant to send troops to Somalia, believing that foreign troops won't help deal with the chaotic situation there. But historically, force is the only thing that works in Somalia. British 19th century colonial administrators learned that the best way to deal with Somali outlaws was to "shoot on sight, shoot first, shoot to kill, keep shooting." Not unexpectedly, post-colonial Somalia proved unable to govern itself. The tribal rivalries kept the pot boiling, and even the rise of a "clean government" party (the Islamic Courts), based on installing a religious dictatorship, backfired. Too many Somalis were willing to fight the Islamic radicals, who were also handicapped by their support for al Qaeda and international Islamic terrorism. In the past (before the European colonialists showed up) a form of order was imposed by having more reasonable (and often non-Somali) powers hold the coastal cities and towns, enabling trade with the outside world. One had to accept a near constant state of war, or just the banditry, with the interior tribes. There were periods of peace, as warlords established temporary kingdoms, but was never the notion that peace was something that would last. The Somalis were constantly at war with their neighbors, usually in the form of Somalis raiding into Kenya and Ethiopia, and sometimes getting attacked in turn by "punitive raids" (to discourage raiding, for a while anyway.)

In Mogadishu, skirmishing continues, with a one or two dozen casualties a day (most of them civilians or al Shabaab fighters).  The al Shabaab gunmen are untrained, but know that they can get some protection from the trained government soldiers and AU peacekeepers, by using civilians as human shields.

In the south, al Shabaab is demanding people surrender cash and jewelry, and businessmen make large contributions, to pay for more weapons, ammo and equipment to confront the larger number of AU peacekeepers on the way. Al Shabaab has used its Internet sites to call for Islamic terrorist groups worldwide to launch attacks in support of al Shabaab efforts to conquer all of Somalia.

August 2, 2010: A cargo ship was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The ship, the MV Suez, was travelling in the security corridor, but the pirates attacked in the pre-dawn murk, and by the time armed helicopters arrived, the ship had been taken. A week ago, a Turkish cargo ship was released after ransom was paid.

July 30, 2010:  In Uganda, three ethnic Somali Kenyans were charged with planning the recent suicide attacks in the Ugandan capital, that killed over 70. The three men were Islamic radicals working for al Shabaab to try and terrorize Uganda into withdrawing its peacekeepers.

Kenya moved several hundred more troops and police to the Somali border, in reaction to fighting between Islamic radical factions just across the border in the town of Dobley. Since earlier in the year, Hizbul Islam fighters have fought with their al Shabaab rivals over control of the road that goes through the town. The two groups argued over who should control the road, which carries much of the foreign aid and trade goods coming into the country.

July 28, 2010:  African Union (AU) leaders have agreed (except for pro-terrorist Eritrea) to back the use of more peacekeepers in Somalia, and to confront the Somali terrorists with force. Eritrea is run by a paranoid dictator who obtained support from Iran against all his real or imagined enemies. This has made Eritrea a base area for Islamic terror groups throughout the region. The AU agreed to send 4,000 more troops to Mogadishu, and allow the peacekeepers to seek out and attack al Shabaab forces.

July 27, 2010: In Puntland, a local warlord has allied himself with al Shabaab and demanded that Puntland (where a third of Somalia's population lives) impose Islamic (Sharia) law. The other clans in Puntland have gathered forces to oppose the pro-Islamic radical warlord (who appears to be using al Shabaab in an attempt to expand his power). There has been skirmishing in the mountains of Puntland, and nearly a hundred casualties. The pro-Shabaab forces appear to have been stopped. Puntland forces say they captured some al Shabaab members and known terrorists. Puntland sent troops after the warlord before the warlord could assemble a force large enough to attack any nearby towns or ports.

July 26, 2010:  In Mogadishu, AU peacekeepers used their new ROE (Rules of Engagement) and raided an al Shabaab assembly area, killing eleven Islamic radical gunmen and wounding many others. This is the apparently the first of many more such attacks by peacekeepers.

Al Shabaab has ordered all people in areas it controls to turn in TV sets and satellite dishes. Anyone who refuses will be considered a spy and executed. Only al Shabaab can use TV sets and satellite dishes, for monitoring what is being said about them.






Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close