Somalia: Get Straight Or Starve

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May 19, 2017: The U.S. agrees with the AU peacekeepers in Somalia that al Shabaab is defeated militarily. However Islamic terrorists are actually endemic to the region, flaring up every few generations. In response to that, and other challenges, the Somali government has developed a two year plan to destroy al Shabaab. This plan depends on controlling the equally endemic corruption, which has been particularly troublesome for the security forces. Many of the defeats the army suffers can be traced back to poor morale, often the result of senior officers and politicians stealing payroll and supplies meant for the troops.

Since most of this is paid for by foreign aid, the donor nations are imposing more restrictions on how the aid is administered inside Somalia. In the past this would generate a lot of Somalis (especially those who had grown wealthy from the corruption) loudly protesting this interference in Somali internal affairs. The new Somali president has agreed to avoid that sort of thing and side with the anti-corruption forces. That is a very dangerous move and Somali politicians who try it and succeed create a lot of local enemies. That means a lot of wealthy and ruthless Somalis seeking to kill you. This is a difficult cycle to break.

The new (as of February 22nd) president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has a lot of popular support, especially in the security forces and because of his pledge to carry out more vigorous action against al Shabaab. The new president has credibility in this area because he has been fighting corruption for years and made progress in reducing the incidence of corrupt officials (often senior officers) stealing payroll and other money meant for the soldiers and police.

More so than ever the prime motivation to make some progress with the corruption is that many traditional aid donors are reluctant (or simply refusing) to send aid, even for a catastrophic drought. The donors will only relent if the Somali government makes a convincing effort to curb the theft of foreign aid. Even al Shabaab is trying to exploit the growing famine by telling locals to either work with the Islamic terrorists by not cooperating with the security forces or interfering with al Shabaab recruiting (of local teenagers) and fund raising (extorting businesses and anyone with something they need). It’s this sort of thing that has cost al Shabaab all the popular support it had in 2007 and enabled it to replace the Islamic Courts Union as the champion of the people. Somalia certainly needs a local champion, because the rest of the world is no longer willing to finance Somali scoundrels.

Meanwhile up north the Somali pirates are still active, especially in 2017. This resurgence is the result of many shipping companies reducing their security expenses under pressure from local customers who have to pass the cost on to local consumers. Thus 2017 started off with the usual attacks on smaller ships (coastal freighters and fishing trawlers) and these were closer to Yemen than Somalia. Then in March a tanker was taken and then a freighter in April. This comes after 2016, in which no ships were taken. These ships were quickly recovered but it was a reminder to shipping companies to remain vigilant.

May 17, 2017: In Mogadishu six soldiers were killed as an army bomb specialist was trying to disable explosives in a car.

May 16, 2017: In central Somalia (Bay region) a bomb near a restaurant wounded seven people, including two government officials.

In the south, across the border in Kenya (Mandera) a roadside bomb killed four people in a passing car. Al Shabaab was believed responsible and this makes two attacks in two days in the area. There have been fifteen of these attacks in Kenya since mid-2016 and most of them have been in Mandera and other Christian neighborhoods near the border. Al Shabaab has long sought to drive all non-Moslems out northeastern Kenya because a lot of ethnic Somalis and Moslems live there. Most Kenyans (over 80 percent) are Christian and only twelve percent are Moslem (most of them ethnic Somalis). The area around Mandera is near the Somali border and has long been the scene of fighting between the Kenyan Murule (ethnic Somali Moslems) and the Marhan from across the border in Somalia. In 2015 about a hundred armed Marhan crossed the border and raided Murule territory and despite Kenya sending more soldiers and police to Mandera the violence continues. The Marhan have long been accused of supporting al Shabaab while the Murule oppose Islamic terrorism and al Shabaab efforts to chase Christians from the Mandera region.

May 15, 2017: In the south, across the border in northeast Kenya four al Shabaab wearing army uniforms attacked the home of a government official, killed him and several bodyguards. The killers thenfled towards the nearby Somali border.

May 9, 2017: In central Somalia (the Bay region) about a hundred al Shabaab attacked an army outpost and ambushed reinforcements, killing 17 soldiers. Al Shabaab then claimed to have captured the nearby town of Goofgaduud (250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu). This town has changed hands regularly in the last few years.

May 8, 2017: In Mogadishu a car bomb went off next to a popular restaurant killing eight people, including the primary target, a senior military commander. Al Shabaab regularly goes after senior military and intel officials, not just to eliminate them but to encourage others to ease up on the Islamic terror group. Further south (Lower Shabelle region) a roadside bomb killed four soldiers.

May 5, 2017: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region) an army raid killed a local al Shabaab leader and three of his men.

May 4, 2017: An American Navy SEAL was killed while advising Somali troops in an operation 65 kilometers west of Mogadishu. Another two Americans were wounded as the U.S. helicopters transporting the Somali troops came under fire. The raid was a success. The SEAL was the first fatality the American military had suffered in Somalia since 1993 (the “Blackhawk Down” incident and subsequent withdrawal of peacekeepers from Somalia).

May 3, 2017: In Mogadishu the Minister of Public Works was shot dead while driving to the presidential compound. The shooters were bodyguards for the Auditor General, who thought the minister’s car was part of an al Shabaab attack. The president soon met with the rest of his ministers and agreed to dismiss the Auditor General and prosecute the careless bodyguards.

May 2, 2017: The U.S. has agreed to provide the Kenyan peacekeepers in Kenya with twelve MD530F armed scout helicopters. Because these helicopters are provided under an aid program they will cost Kenya very little.

April 30, 2017: In the south, near the Kenyan border a senior al Shabaab leader killed an associate from Kenya after accusing him of selling information to the Kenyan military. Since late 2016 about twenty Kenyan al Shabaab members have been accused of spying on al Shabaab and executed for it. As a result many more Kenyan members of al Shabaab have deserted and returned to Kenya. Some were arrested and interrogated while others spoke freely with family and friends about their experience. They all confirmed the paranoia the Islamic terror group was struggling with. Al Shabaab continues to suffer from problems with their secret locations being found out and attacked. Most of these situations are the result of better intelligence work and more civilians willing to pass on information about al Shabaab movements. Cell phones make that a lot easier. Because of the arrival of cell phone networks after 2000 al Shabaab has a hard time hiding their presence even in the most remote areas and does not like to admit that local civilians are the source of these tips.

April 27, 2017: In Mogadishu al Shabaab gunmen killed a senior intelligence officer outside his home.

April 23, 2017: In the north (Puntland) al Shabaab used a roadside bomb to kill six soldiers and would eight other who were driving to Bosaso.

April 21, 2017: In the south (Lower Juba) soldiers and peacekeepers (mainly Kenyans) carried out a night attack on an al Shabaab camp near the Kenyan border and killed over fifty of the Islamic terrorists. Kenya provided artillery and mortar fire to support the operation. Weapons and other equipment were captured in the camp as the surviving al Shabaab men fled.

 

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