Africa failing in Shabaab war, says US army chief

Thursday March 10 2016

A Kenya Defence Forces, under Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), soldier takes position during a patrol at Afmadow town on November 22, 2015. Currently Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia have their forces under Amisom. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Kenya Defence Forces, under Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), soldier takes position during a patrol at Afmadow town on November 22, 2015. Currently Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia have their forces under Amisom. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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IN NEW YORK

The fight against Al-Shabaab is failing to achieve its objectives because African Union forces are “overstretched” and the Somalia national army suffers “endemic deficiencies,” a US military commander for Africa said on Tuesday.

General David Rodriguez, head of the US Africa Command (Africom), offered a bleak assessment of Somalia’s security situation in remarks to the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

His comments stood in marked contrast to assurances of substantial progress in Somalia that other US officials have repeatedly voiced.

“Al-Shabaab did lose territory last year and was weakened in its ability to generate resources,” said Gen Rodriguez.

But he warned that Al-Shabaab may respond to these financial and territorial losses “by broadening its terrorist agenda throughout East Africa.”

Gen Rodriguez said other US military officials were reporting an air strike on an Al-Shabaab compound that reportedly killed 150 militants.

The appraisal suggested that intensive efforts by the US and other powers to improve the Somali state’s military and governance capabilities have produced few gains.

“The Somali National Army remains dependent on foreign forces to conduct operations and is challenged by leadership, logistical support and clan factionalism,” he said.

“Under-governed areas outside the reach of Federal Government of Somalia will continue providing Al-Shabaab with territory to hide.”