Somali National Army’s Ongoing Battle Against al-Shabab: Lingering Security Threats Despite Territorial Gains
The Somali National Army, alongside allied clan militias, are persistently pushing against al-Shabab militants in central Somalia. Despite the sustained efforts and territorial gains, experts warn that the displaced militants still present a substantial security threat. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s declaration of a “total war” against al-Shabab in August 2022 has led to the ousting of the militants from some of their strongholds. However, the displaced militants have dispersed into rural areas and infiltrated major cities, raising concerns about potential future attacks.
Ismail Dahir Osman, the former deputy commander of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, underscores the potential threat posed by these scattered militants. Colonel Abdullahi Ali Maow, a former Somali intelligence official, also echoes this sentiment, warning that the displacement of the militants does not signify the end of their threat but could lead to new security challenges for the country. Militants often find refuge and support from sympathizers in populated cities, making it difficult for security agencies to neutralize them. These militants carry their combat experience and ideological fervor into new areas, posing threats of terrorism and insurgency.
The Role of Lower-Ranking Soldiers
Despite the pronounced threats, some experts believe the danger posed by fleeing lower-ranking foot soldiers is less than the damage they have caused in the past. The government’s focus should be on driving the militants to a point where their threat can be managed by local police and intelligence agencies, with the support of the grassroots.
The report highlights the need for a multifaceted approach to counter the threat posed by al-Shabab. This includes international cooperation, improved intelligence sharing, and addressing the root causes of militancy in conflict-affected regions. Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre intends to appeal to the U.N. General Assembly for the removal of an international arms embargo, to improve Somalia’s capability to eliminate al-Shabab. The militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organization by both the U.N. and U.S., has been fighting the Somali government for 16 years.
As the offensive against al-Shabab continues, it’s clear that the fight is far from over. The displaced militants pose a significant threat that needs to be addressed with a comprehensive, strategic approach. International cooperation, improved intelligence sharing, and a focus on addressing the root causes of militancy are all crucial elements in this fight. As the situation unfolds, the international community will be watching closely to see how the Somali government and its allies navigate these complex challenges.
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