Somalia: Peacekeeper Plans In Peril

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November 24, 2016: The current plan is for all peacekeepers to be gone by the end of 2018. Right now most (nearly 70 percent) of the government forces are UN peacekeepers contributed by AU (African Union) members. The AU would like to get another 4,000 troops before then to crush the few thousand remaining al Shabaab and ISIL fighters and make it possible for the Somali Army (currently 11,000 troops) to take over. The AU is unlikely to muster another 4,000 troops for six months duty and it appears that Somalia will slide back into anarchy after 2018. At the moment the peacekeeper force cannot even maintain its authorized strength of 22,000.

Over ten percent of those troops are being withdrawn prematurely because of various political and economic disputes. For example in central Somalia (Hiran and Bakool, 300 kilometers north of Mogadishu) al Shabaab gunmen took control of six towns since September as Ethiopian peacekeepers left. Al Shabaab quickly seized the abandoned towns and began killing locals they accused of cooperating with the peacekeepers. The Ethiopian peacekeepers are being recalled to Ethiopia because of growing civil unrest there but don’t want to publicize that. Instead Ethiopia says the withdrawal is linked to the EU (European Union) cutting its cash support for the African peacekeepers by 20 percent. Other peacekeeper contributors have complained about the EU cuts as well.

There are other reasons for this mess the main one being a shortage of resources to improve that situation. For example the security forces are not well coordinated when it comes to intelligence. Some of the troops (like those from neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya) report back to their national military commands, not the head of the Somalia peacekeeping force. Ugandan peacekeepers also do this a lot, but not as much as Ethiopia and Kenya who both consider their operations inside Somalia an extension of border security efforts, which is how these two countries get involved in Somali peacekeeping in the first place. But what the peacekeeping forces needs as a whole is more pooling of information and an air force (for recon and attack) the peacekeeper commander has some control over. Currently Ethiopia, Kenya and the United States fly a lot of air reconnaissance over Somalia they don’t pass all the data, or even much of it on to the people running the peacekeepers.

Another problem is the Somali Army which, despite years of efforts (and several hundred million dollars) only has 11,000 ill disciplined, poorly led and badly treated troops in action. The goal has always been 20,000 trained and disciplined troops but that is unlikely to be achieved. Corruption is the big problem with officers stealing whatever they can and leaving the troops unpaid, hungry and understandably in a bad mood. Because of the corruption and bad government Somalia is often, and accurately, described as a failed state. This is about more than just corruption. The concept of the "nation of Somalia" is a very recent development (the 1960s). It never really caught on. Before the 1960s Somalia never had a local government that controlled all of what is now Somalia. Some things never seem to change.

Meanwhile

Elections are taking place on the 30th. These were supposed to have taken place by now but have not because too many of the current politicians regard elections as a threat to their income (from corruption). Some foreign donors correctly see this as a ploy so the interim government can stay in power longer and steal more aid money. This led to threats to halt aid if elections were not held. That worked, sort of, and the electoral process lurches forward, if only to keep the free money coming. Part of the problem is political with many of the clans (tribes) maintaining armed militias and refusing to abide by a “one man, one vote” system. That is, some clans demand more (foreign aid and other resources) than their numbers justify. A compromise had been achieved to accommodate that. In effect there will be more of a “selection” than an election. The national parliament will have 275 members who will be elected by 14,025 “voters” selected by 135 clan elders. The 54 members of the upper house of parliament are selected by local (state or regional) assemblies. A Western style election (in which all adult citizens can vote) is not expected until the early 2020s, if ever. Meanwhile al Shabaab insists that any form of democracy is un-Islamic and threatens to kill those who participate. Al Shabaab represents ancient, pre-Islamic, customs and traditions that have long defined Somali culture. Thus someone with greater power, especially if some of it is supernatural, should be in charge. That’s a tradition that is not unique to Somalia but many Somalis have remained enthusiastic and loyal practitioners of this sort of thing. That’s why the corruption and disunity continue to flourish. There is no easy or quick solution.

ISIL Resurgent

In the north ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has taken advantage of local (Puntland) clan feuds to establish a presence. This began in October 2015 when an al Shabaab faction declared itself the local branch of ISIL. This was mainly about clan politics, as was the recent (October 26) ISIL seizure of the port of Quandala. The Puntland government has been distracted by the endemic clan warfare of Somalia and unable to spare the troops to suppress this new ISIL group. Meanwhile Puntland is also feuding with Galmudug, is an autonomous region of Somalia just south of Puntland. Galmudug was formed in 2006 and has a population of about 1.8 million. Northern Somalia broke away from Somalia in the 1990s to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The current ISIL gains are a side effect of territorial disputes. In 2014 Puntland cut diplomatic relations with Somalia over a Somali plan to reunite the northern province of Mudug at the expense of Puntland. Back in the 1990s clan wars in Mudug caused the province to be divided. The northern part joined Puntland while the southern half did not. Now Somalia wants to reunite Mudug and Puntland sees that as aggression. Somalia says it will work with the UN to do it peacefully but Puntland still sees it as a land grab. Meanwhile some of the Mudug clans in the Puntland want to join with the Mudug clans in Somalia to form a separate state and are willing to fight Puntland over the issue. At the same time Puntland is threatened by Somaliland because of territorial disputes. This gave the new ISIL faction near the coast the opportunity to grab and hold onto Quandala, population 19,000 and 550 kilometers south (across the Gulf of Aden) of Yemen.

With all this chaos in Puntland ISIL released a video in early 2016 in which a former al Shabaab member urged Somalis to come join ISIL and help destroy al Shabaab. Most al Shabaab members have rejected ISIL and remained loyal to al Qaeda. But several dozen al Shabaab men did leave and join ISIL. There have been some skirmishes between this ISIL group and al Shabaab but with this video ISIL openly declared war on al Shabaab. The ISIL problem began in 2015 when a growing number of dissatisfied al Shabaab members responded to ISIL recruiting efforts and joined with other dissident al Shabaab men to create several small ISIL groups in Somalia. Al Shabaab has declared those who join ISIL are traitors and seeks to kill them. This has made all foreign members suspect because most Somali members want nothing to do with ISIL. That’s because al Shabaab was founded as a Somali nationalist organization and al Qaeda respected that. ISIL did not and wants to conquer the world. In late 2015 ISIL in Somalia clashed with al Shabaab several times and lost most of its new recruits to death (in battle) or desertion. This helped the security forces and peacekeepers but they don’t like to publicize this. With more foreign al Shabaab members deserting and going public about it, the internal problems of al Shabaab were becoming more widely known. Now ISIL has decided to go public with the “problem” in Somalia.

Al Shabaab is still much (more than ten times) larger than ISIL, with as many as 5,000 armed men. Al Shabaab survives by “taxing” rural farmers, merchants and truck traffic. This brings in over a million dollars a month. In addition al Shabaab men will take what food and other supplies they need whenever they have the opportunity.

November 23, 2016: In central Somalia (the Bay region) soldiers fought al Shabaab gunmen outside Baidoa and killed 11 of the Islamic terrorists while losing three dead.

November 20, 2016: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab landmine killed two police officers and wounded two others.

November 19, 2016: In Mogadishu police and peacekeepers carried out several raids and arrested twenty suspected al Shabaab men.

In the south (just across the border in Kenya) police ambushed a group of twenty al Shabaab moving to attack a Mandera County police station. Four of the Islamic terrorists were killed and the rest fled back to Somalia.

November 18, 2016: In the south (outside Kismayo) troops and peacekeepers clashed with al Shabaab and killed six of the Islamic terrorists while suffering no losses.

November 16, 2016: Kenya has agreed to delay by six months its decision to close the Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeast Kenya. This was be shut down by the end of 2016. Dadaab has become the largest refugee camp in the world since it was established in 1991. Containing over 330,000 Somalis it was built outside the town of Dadaab. The Kenyans living near the camp are largely ethnic Somali but the camp is unpopular because it disrupts more than benefits the locals and has become a base for criminal gangs and Islamic terrorists.

November 10, 2016: The U.S. admitted that one of their air strikes on September 28th killed 10 Galmudug soldiers and not al Shabaab men. Galmudug and Puntland have been fighting each other over territorial disputes and Puntland apparently provided the Americans with false information.

November 7, 2016: In the north (Galmudug) forces from Galmudug and Puntland resumed fighting, leaving 29 dead (16 from Puntland). The violence is over a long-standing border dispute. There was a ceasefire in place but it didn’t last long.

November 5, 2016: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab car bomb killed two soldiers and wounded five others near the parliament buildings.

October 30, 2016: In central Somalia (the Bay region) the army retreated from Goofgaduud (250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu) because they were attacked by several hundred al Shabaab gunmen. Seven soldiers were killed but the rest of the small (less than a hundred troops) garrison got away.

October 26, 2016: In the north (Puntland) fifty fighters of the local ISIL group captured the port town of Quandala. They left the town a day later as troops approached.

October 25, 2016: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab death squad killed an army intelligence officer as he entered a mosque.

In central Somalia (Beledweyne) an al Shabaab suicide truck bomber attacked the entrance to a peacekeeper base, killing two soldiers and a civilian.

In the south, across the Kenyan border in Mandera County al Shabaab attacked a residential compound killing twelve visiting students.

October 23, 2016: In Kenya the last 26 sailors held hostage by the Somali pirates flew in. Some had been held since 2012 because no one would pay ransom for them. Finally the pirates agreed to let them go for $1.5 million. There were three other captive sailors who died while being held.

October 22, 2016: For the first time since mid-2013 pirates attempted to take a large ship. Some 600 kilometers off the Somali coast a 51,000 ton (DWT) British chemical tanker was attacked by a speedboat containing armed men. The armed guard on the tanker fired on the speedboat as it approached the tanker and the men in the speedboat fired back. The tanker increased speed, changed course and got away.

 

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