Special forces may soon join the war against Al-Shabaab

Sunday March 5 2017

African Union Mission in Somalia troops patrol in Mogadishu on December 3, 2014. PHOTO | AFP

African Union Mission in Somalia troops patrol in Mogadishu on December 3, 2014. PHOTO | AFP 

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The war against Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia should intensify if US President Donald Trump approves a Pentagon plan to expand operations in the country.

A week today, the Pentagon sent recommendations to the White House that would allow US Special Forces to increase assistance to the Somali National Army, now struggling against Al-Shabaab, The Associated Press reported.

The AP cited unidentified US officials as source of the information, a practice Trump has maligned as manufacturing of “fake news”.

Whatever, the agency reported the officials saying the plan fits in Trump’s policy of defeating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and affiliates, real and copy cats worldwide.

These include Al-Qaeda and adherents such as Al-Shabaab.

As the agency noted, US concern is primarily based on the tendency of Americans from Somali communities travelling to training camps in the Horn of Africa country and might return and conduct terrorist attacks.

Well, someone should have foreseen that. Those who did, like the European Union, acted.

The EU has been the main financial supporter of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, Amisom.

That’s in addition to a 160 EU Training Mission starting in 2010 in Uganda. However, the financial support is dwindling.

According to the AP, General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command, described Somalia as “our most perplexing challenge”.

Adding the goal is to look at Somalia in a “fresh perspective in the way ahead”.

Currently, the US has about 60 rotating troops. Their job includes advising and training Somali soldiers.

The US forces also provide transport et al. From time to time it flies drones to strike selected targets.

What’s needed in Somalia is a co-ordinated punch — search and destroy Al-Shabaab.

Amisom, which began as a peace-keeping force and metamorphosed into a peace enforcement one — there was no peace to keep or enforce — has ballooned into a 22,000-strong force.

Other than the initial push to expel Al-Shabaab from key towns, whatever fighting the Amisom force carries out other than protecting dignitaries and encampments remains a mystery.

If the US so-called “fresh perspective” is to have any effect, it should include getting Amisom troops on the move, expand and equip the Somali army and police.

There must be many Somalis who are fed up with chaos that began in 1991 and are willing to fight to restore order.


That’s only part of the story, though. Politically and governance institutionary, Somalia remains fragmented.

Regional leaders seem exhausted in trying to broker a political arrangement, often made difficult by the Somali clan syndrome. There must be Somalis who realise the syndrome is a recipe for national disaster.

Consequently, should the Pentagon plan materialise — and it’s likely to — it would be in the interest of regional leaders to ride the wave and rally behind Somalis willing to steer the country toward sanity.