The United States has spent $3.5 billion on the Somali security forces (army and police) since 2000 and has little to show for it. Efforts to establish an efficient national police force have failed. There has been some success with developing a professional, reliable and effective army, especially several hundred special operations troops. However, most of the officers are corrupt and their troops are not much better, despite being selected and trained by Western specialists in that sort of thing. The culture of corruption (according to outsiders) is seen by most Somalis as taking money from gullible foreigners in order to enrich your family and clan. There has never been an effective national government in Somalia. The only “government” Somalis can depend on is the informal one provided by your clan. Some clans are more powerful than others and the stronger clans prey on the weaker ones. All non-Somalis are seen as weak and potential sources of plunder. Other nations in the region have long seen Somalia as a threat and recent efforts to change that have failed. This does not mean al Shabaab has been free to do what they want. The army and national police are not the only armed force in the nation and not the most powerful one. That would be local clan or independent self-defense militias.
When angry, the armed local clans and independent militias cause al Shabaab the most trouble. The army, peacekeepers and police are a minor problem in comparison. In a growing number of instances the local government forces agree to reinforce the local militia to defeat al Shabaab attacks. The nationwide cell-phone service makes this possible. Al Shabaab leaders advise local commanders to be more diplomatic. That is easier said than done when the locals are armed and fed up with years of threats and extortion, as well as al Shabaab demanding more of the local teenage boys be turned over so they can be converted into al Shabaab fighters, or murdered if the young men refuse to cooperate. It is estimated that in the last decade al Shabaab intimidation attacks have killed over 5,000 civilians. Demanding teenage boys to be trained as replacements for al Shabaab casualties has become a major issue with civilians. The army and peacekeepers are more powerful but they come and go. A well-armed, organized and led militia is always around to confront al Shabaab. So far the Islamic terrorists have not come up with an effective response to this local resistance.
September 8, 2020:
In Balad (30 kilometers north of Mogadishu) a large force of al Shabaab gunmen tried to seize the town. The army garrison defeated the attack, killing fourteen of the attackers and wounding many more. One soldier was killed and six wounded. Balad was under al Shabaab control until June 2012 and because of a shortage of trained and trustworthy security personnel the government had to make deals with local warlords to keep the peace. These warlords were initially uncomfortable around and hostile towards the trained police and army units. The militiamen were undisciplined and unpredictable. After a few years relations improved, in part because the militias needed the additional forces to keep al Shabaab out. Balad is a major market town that lies astride a key road al Shabaab would like to have more control over.
September 7, 2020:
In the south (Jubbaland, on the Kenya border) al Shabaab used a suicide car bomber to attacks Somali-American special operations base 50 kilometers west of the port city of Kismayo. The attack killed three Somali Special Forces troops and wounded an American as well as a Somali Special Forces operator. This attack, which included some mortar shells fired into the base, was not unusual. This area has, for years, been the scene of heavy fighting involving Somali, Kenyan and American forces against al Shabaab. Kismayo is the largest port in Somalia and is near the Kenyan border. Somali smugglers are very active in the area and they pay al Shabaab for protection from all the troops operating down there. So far this year there have been 46 American airstrikes in Somalia and most of them are in the south, close to the Kenyan border. American Special Forces have been operating down there for years and have taken casualties. In 2018 al Shabaab mortar fire killed an American Special Forces soldier and wounded four others. The Americans and some Kenyan soldiers were setting up an outpost near the Jubba River. Al Shabaab force was on the other side of the river had been firing on Kenyan peacekeepers operating in the area. Despite this attack, and several others, Kenyan and American troops finished setting up the combat outpost, which was used to hunt for al Shabaab forces in the area and drive them out. The death of the Special Forces NCO was the second American death in Somalia in two years. A Navy SEAL commando died during a May 2017 raid. Al Shabaab believes that the Somali and American Special Forces troops operate a network of local informants who provide target information for the airstrikes, which often kill key al Shabaab leaders. Al Shabaab regularly seizes and murders local civilians it suspects of being informants. Most of these victims are innocent but al Shabaab wants to terrorize the locals into silence. That is difficult because most of the locals hate, as well as fear, al Shabaab.
September 2, 2020: In Kenya the government announced it had identified nine Kenyans (or Somalis living in Kenya) who were doing business with al Shabaab and providing various banking services. These nine men have had their assets frozen and are being prosecuted.
August 27, 2020:
In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region) American UAVs carried out an attack on al Shabaab, killing eight of the Islamic terrorists who were surrounded in a building and refused to surrender. The airstrike killed six al Shabaab men and wounded three others who were captured.
August 20, 2020: In the far north Somali pirates released the last three of their foreign hostages. These three were Iranian fishermen captured in 2015. The Iranian government used various techniques to obtain the freedom of the other 16 crew on that fishing boat. Details were not made public about how the last three hostages were freed. This marks the end of an era. The decline began in 2008 with the organization and deployment of the international
anti-piracy patrol off the Somali coast. By 2012 the pirates were unable to capture anymore large ships for multi-million-dollar ransoms. It was still possible to capture foreign fishing boats or small coastal cargo ships but these often yielded no ransom at all. With the big money gone the major pirate gangs disbanded. Some pirates still operate off the coast, without much success. The anti-piracy patrol is still there and large ships carry armed guards now, who will open fire if small speedboats get too close.
Another factor in the demise of big-league piracy was the government of Puntland drove the pirate gangs out of local ports like Hur and Hobyo, which had long served as a base for pirates until local officials shut down most pirate gangs in 2012. The pirate gangs continued to operate out of Puntland ports but these ports were more closely watched by the anti-piracy patrol.
August 16, 2020: In Mogadishu al Shabaab attacked and briefly occupied a beachside hotel. A suicide car bomb was used to breech the hotel perimeter and al Shabaab gunmen entered to kill security forces and capture or kill guests. The next day police attacked the hotel and killed the last of the five al Shabaab men who carried out the operation. Eleven others died, including one the policemen involved in the counterattack.
August 12, 2020: In the north (Mudug, 500 kilometers north of Mogadishu), soldiers came to the aid of some herders who were fighting al Shabaab gunmen who demanded supplies so that the Islamic terrorists could set up in new base in an area the herders used to graze their animals. Al Shabaab believed the herders had too few gunmen to resist but soldiers showed up and that forced al Shabaab to withdraw. The Islamic terrorists lost 16 dead and even more were wounded. Al Shabaab survives in the north, as it does elsewhere in Somalia, by “taxing” the locals. Often the clans and local businesses work out a mutually agreeable tax rate. In a growing number of instances the victims of this extortion get organized and gather enough gunmen to defeat al Shabaab retaliation. If the locals can resist long enough (a few months to a year) al Shabaab will move away to a less hostile territory. There are fewer and fewer “less hostile” areas to operate in, at least one that yield enough income to keep al Shabaab going.
August 10, 2020: Outside Mogadishu 19 prisoners, guards and al Shabaab attackers died when the Islamic terrorists sought to fight their way into the prison and free al Shabaab men being held there. The attackers took control of a small area of the prison compound and were killed or captured after several hours of fighting.