Somalia: A Slow Motion Counter-Offensive

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December 15, 2011: Kenyan forces in southern Somalia have moved up to 70 kilometers from the border, maintaining control of the main roads and forcing al Shabaab into the bush. Kenya only sent 2,000 troops in to halt the al Shabaab raids across the border. Kenya is depending on local militia groups to provide the fighters to take the main towns near the border (Kismayu, the major al Shabaab port and Afmadow, a major trading center inland from Kismayu). But not enough of the locals are willing to risk fighting al Shabaab for the two towns. Meanwhile, the Kenyan Navy has cut down on al Shabaab use of coastal sea movement. The Kenyan operation has also reduced the number of refugees crossing into Kenya. There are already about half a million Somali refugees in Kenya. Al Shabaab blocks a lot of foreign food aid for starving Somalis forcing them to flee the country (to Ethiopia as well as Kenya.)

By recently putting their troops in Somali under the control of Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) up to half the cost of the Kenyan military operation in Somalia ($250,000 a month) is now taken care of, in addition to receiving technical support. U.S. and French forces in Djibouti up north are apparently supplying air reconnaissance, although it appears to be Kenyan warplanes carrying out bombing attacks on al Shabaab bases.

Al Shabaab has changed its mind about adopting a new name (Imaarah Islamiya). The name change was unpopular with many al Shabaab members and has been put on hold. Al Shabaab has more pressing problems, mainly the fact that they are now on the defensive all over the country. The opposition has been active, and successful, but not aggressive. For years, al Shabaab was the aggressor using its Islamic radical recruits to attack aggressively and successfully. But the opposition (clan militias and the Kenyan military) have learned how to cope and al Shabaab no longer has a battlefield advantage. Al Shabaab attempts to impose lifestyle rules on the population have been very unpopular, as has their efforts to block foreign aid (especially food). It's a slow motion counter-offensive. It’s easy to get killed in Somalia and the locals are really in no hurry to speed up the process.

While al Shabaab units have left Mogadishu smaller terrorist groups remain and their main activity is planting roadside bombs and carrying out suicide bomb attacks. The objective here is to render the city unusable for foreign aid organizations and to terrorize the population in general.

Kenya has managed to reduce al Shabaab activity among Kenyan Moslems but still has problems with Somali Moslems attacking Somalis who convert to Christianity. This can get you killed in Somalia but will usually only result in heckling or a beating in Kenya.

Violence continues in the northeastern statelet of Puntland and clans to the south. Most of the violence is centered on the city of Galkayo, which Puntland disputes with non-Puntland clans.

December 13, 2011: In Mogadishu a suicide truck bomb went off in a government compound, killing over 80 people. A second truck bomb failed to detonate and was disarmed.

December 11, 2011: Bombs went off in two Kenyan towns near the Somali border. One policeman was killed and al Shabaab was suspected.

 

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