Somalia: Déjà Vu Looms


January 25, 2021: Somalia is limping towards national elections in February that not all parts of the country agree with. This is nothing new, but it is a major problem for neighboring nations. Somalis in general have a problem with being answerable to anyone not in their extended family or clan. This is why massive corruption persists and a growing number of foreign aid donors are cutting their aid or halting it entirely. This includes the United States, a major provider of food, as well as the main support for the Somali Army. Military aid is plundered more frequently and extensively than food and medical aid, but the extent of corruption in general throughout the Somali government never seems to appreciably decline. Corruption in the military is obvious because so many Somali Army units, when facing combat, seem to fail miserably. What is really happening is that an infantry company with about 150 troops on the payroll (that foreign aid pays for) might have only a few dozen actual troops because the rest are absent because they never existed in the first place (but the pay goes to a corrupt officer of politician) or deserted because they were not being paid.

Foreign relations are also crippled by corruption. For example, European nations find that they can get Somalia to accept the return of Somalis who illegally entered Europe only if bribes are paid to Somali government officials. This sort of thing is illegal, or simply political trouble, in many European nations but in most cases the details of the “diplomatic agreement” is declared classified and everyone pretends the corruption doesn’t exist.

While most Somalis believe there is a Somali culture all Somalis share, far fewer Somalis believe in the “civil society” required to create a functioning nation and government. Some civil societies are more effective (less corrupt) than others but Somalia appears incapable of creating and sustaining a government that foreign aid donors can justify supporting. The problem is that, when it comes to foreign aid, the international demand is much larger than the supply and donor nations prefer to send their money to nations that will use more of it as intended. Even the UN is planning to shut down the peacekeeping operation by the end of 2021 because there seems little hope that the Somali Army will ever be effective enough to replace the peacekeepers.

There is the option of cutting all aid, although NGO foreign aid groups will demand that donors still come through with cash and someone provide some armed protection so the food and medical aid can be delivered to the warlords who will steal it and sell it to Somalis who can afford it. That doesn’t work (“Blackhawk Down” anyone?) but allowing Somalia to revert to its normal, for thousands of years, warlord-driven anarchy is very unpopular with the neighbors. Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, which do have civil societies are already dealing with Somali violence spilling across their borders. The neighbors have suffered from Somali raids and general banditry for a long time. The mayhem was diminished during about a century of colonial rule In Somalia.

Once all the colonial powers were gone by 1960, the newly established Somali government began to come apart, a process that was complete by 1991 and no one has been able to get all the clans to submit to a new central government since. To make matters worse most of the educated Somalis fled in the 1990s and few have come back. Meanwhile public education has been absent in most of Somalia for two decades and the literacy rate is under 40 percent (and under 30 percent for women). Public health has been largely missing for two decades and life expectancy is about 52 years. Outside of Somaliland and Puntland it’s under 50 years.

The beleaguered neighbors will, as they have in past, respond to resumed Somali aggression with massive “punitive operations” that will leave lots of Somalis, mostly women and children, dead or destitute. The Ethiopians have long handled Somali raiders that way. It works for a generation or two, then another dose of the massacre treatment must be applied. Kenya is a different story as before the colonial period the Kenyan tribes were not as organized and well-armed as they are now as the Kenyan Army supported by a Kenyan state.

The foreign donor groups and foreign diplomats who understand how this works want to prop up the Somali government no matter what the cost because the alternative is so horrific. Meanwhile the most unconcerned and least cooperative group involved are Somali leaders and many of their followers. Somali isn’t a hopeless mess, just a lot more difficult than most.

January 24, 2021: In the north (Hiran, a region 200 kilometers north of Mogadishu) Al Shabaab attacked a peacekeeper base, killing one peacekeeper and wounding another. Some equipment was damaged as the attackers were repulsed, taking their dead and wounded with them. The peacekeepers involved were from Djibouti, which has 3,000 troops in the Somalia peacekeeper force and operates in northern and central Somalia.

In the southeast, a cross the border in Kenya (Mandera county) Kenyan troops ambushed a group of al Shabaab gunmen, killing one and capturing another. The rest of the Islamic terrorists fled. Local officials claim that over half of Mandera county is threatened by al Shabaab violence. Kenyan government security experts consider these claims exaggerations but have sent more special operations troops to the area to go after any al Shabaab operating along the border.

January 23, 2021: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle) al Shabaab attacked peacekeepers in an area 90 kilometers northeast of Mogadishu, forcing peacekeepers to withdraw. Reinforced by more peacekeepers and local militia, al Shabaab gunmen were driven from the area. The fighting left at least three peacekeepers and six Islamic terrorists dead.

In Mogadishu a roadside bomb was used against a former member of parliament. The target was wounded and four soldiers were killed.

January 22, 2021: In the southwest (Gedo Region) al Shabaab fired several mortar shells at a base for Ethiopian peacekeepers, killing two of them. Ethiopian troops have served as peacekeepers for years providing security for this part of Jubbaland.

January 21, 2021: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle) the Ugandan contingent of peacekeepers carried out a major attack on al Shabaab members who were gathering for a meeting. With the assistance of armed helicopters the Ugandans claim 198 Islamic terrorists dead with no losses to peacekeepers or local civilians.

January 19, 2021: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab landmine killed four and wounded six. One of the dead was a senior commander in the security forces.

In the southeast, a cross the border in Kenya (Mandera county) al Shabaab blew up a cell phone tower about 200 kilometers from the Somali border. This was probably to persuade a cell phone company to pau al Shabaab for protection from more such attacks.

January 18, 2021: In the south (Jubaland) American UAVs carried out two airstrikes and killed three al Shabaab members. This was the first airstrike since American troops were withdrawn from Somalia.

January 17, 2021: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle) al Shabaab gunmen reoccupied Mashalay, which Ugandan peacekeepers had recently abandoned. The town lies astride the road that serves as a key supply route for peacekeeper forces in the region. Peacekeepers suddenly left several small bases guarding towns and villages. This was not a retreat but the concentration of Ugandan peacekeepers for a major offensive operation. Al Shabaab was apparently unaware of this and assumed they had the peacekeepers on the run and moved forces into several unprotected villages.

January 15, 2021: The United States completed moving most of its 700 troops out of Somalia to other parts of East Africa. The departing troops who will be missed the most are Special Forces operators training and advising their Somali counterparts. The American troops in Somalia also handled intelligence collection and monitoring things in general. This will continue from a major American special operation base in neighboring Djibouti, as will the use of American UAVs, based in Djibouti, to search for Islamic terrorists and carry out airstrikes when the opportunity presents itself.

Since early 2017, when Africom (U.S. Africa Command) increased its use of armed UAVs over Somalia, there have been over 160 UAV airstrikes that have killed nearly a thousand al Shabaab and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members. In 2020 there were fifty of these UAV airstrikes and 270 in Somalia in the last decade. For 2021 there have been four UAV airstrikes so far. Attacking Americans in Somalia who support those air operations has long been an al Shabaab goal, but the Islamic terrorists have had little success at that. Most of those attacks were against al Shabaab targets with a few directed at ISIL forces in the north. In 2019 there were 63 UAV attacks in Somalia for the entire year. The 2020 attacks have killed several senior leaders although most of the UAV attack missions are in support of Somali Army operations, especially in southern Somalia where the remaining al Shabaab strongholds are.

The United States told the Somali government and military that if Somalia can continue providing accurate information about al Shabaab and ISIL activities the U.S. can continue providing UAV and surveillance and airstrike support. The Somali Special Forces troops complain that without their American advisors there is no way to call in airstrikes by American UAVs or medical evacuation helicopters. Past experience has shown that too many Somalis are willing to take a large enough bribe to abuse the ability to call in airstrikes or medevac missions. This usually means calling in an airstrike against a political rival rather than Islamic terrorists. Medical evacuation helicopters can be misled and called into an ambush situation. This sort of things is another of the reasons why Somalia has been rated the most corrupt nation on the planet for decades.

January 13, 2021: In central Somalia (Bay region) at least one al Shabaab member was killed by a missile from an American UAV against an al Shabaab compound.

January 7, 2021: In the west (Bay Region), 160 kilometers west of Mogadishu an American UAV missile attack kill five Al Shabaab members including a notorious al Shabaab official in charge of procurement and logistics for the Islamic terror group. He was the primary target.

January 2, 2021: Outside Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide car bomb was used against civilians involved with building a new 28-kilometer highway from Mogadishu to Afgooye, the third largest city in Somalia. The explosion killed five people, including three Somalis and two Turks and wounded 14. A Turkish construction firm has the contract to build the road, which is financed by Turkish aid. The new road is very popular with most Somalis. Al Shabaab sees it as an opportunity to extort money from the Turks. Al Shabaab demands were ignored so the Islamic terrorists are trying to force the Turks to pay. To make that threat clear, al Shabaab went public to take credit for this attack.

January 1, 2021: In the south west (Kuunyo-Barrow) 330 kilometers from of Mogadishu, an American air strike against an al Shabaab base, used several missiles to destroy six buildings and kill three Al Shabaab men.

December 28, 2020: In the south (Jubbaland) an al Shabaab landmine was triggered by a bus killing seven civilians.

December 27, 2020: In the south (Lamu County, across the border in Kenya) Kenyan forces attacked an al Shabaab camp, killing at least four Islamic terrorists and wounding many others, who were helped to escape as most of the Islamic terrorists in the camp, not expecting an attack, panicked and fled. Weapons, ammunition and personal gear was left behind. Al Shabaab frequently carries out attacks in Lamu country while operating from camps in the nearby Boni Forest, which has long been a refuge for outlaws because of the thinly populated woodlands are on both sides of the border. The Kenyan military is trying to improve its ability to find these camps before they provide a base for many attacks against local civilians and security forces.

December 25, 2020: In the southwest (Gedo Region) Somali troops carried out a surprise attack on a gathering of al Shabaab forces, killing seven of the Islamic terrorists and wounding over twenty.




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