Somalia's tactical twist: Communities confronting militants

Thursday September 07, 2023 - 20:40:25 in News In English by Ali Adan
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    Somalia's tactical twist: Communities confronting militants

    Mogadishu (waagacusub media ) – Amid a backdrop of escalating resistance from the militant group al-Shabab, the Somali government has announced its intention to alter military strategies.

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Mogadishu (waagacusub media ) – Amid a backdrop of escalating resistance from the militant group al-Shabab, the Somali government has announced its intention to alter military strategies.

Senior officials have verified a shift where local community fighters will spearhead the offensive against al-Shabab, with the federal government forces playing a more auxiliary role.

This innovative approach is reminiscent of the one that paved the way for the government and local troops to reclaim large territories from al-Shabab from August 2022 to January 2023.

The current mobilization is a deviation from the previous few months, which primarily concentrated on the national armed forces,” voiced Brigadier General Abdirahman Turyare, the former national intelligence chief, during an interview with VOA Somali.

As part of this initiative, the government aims to register these local combatants, offering them monthly stipends as a motivating factor. Ultimately, this is seen as a stepping stone to integrate them into the national army.

The responsibility of registering and vetting these fighters rests with the national intelligence agency, a measure to deter any militant incursion.

"The objective is a resurgence of our armed forces, allowing some soldiers, weary from a year and a half on the frontlines, to rest and usher in freshly trained troops. We also aim to remobilize the Ma’awisley [local militias] and let the local community steer this battle,” Turyare explained 

Lessons from Cowsweyne

The recalibration in strategy follows a significant setback experienced by the federal army. They ventured deep into al-Shabab territory, aiming to conquer the village of Cowsweyne.

However, the operation was marred by a lethal ambush by al-Shabab, resulting in substantial casualties. The government has remained tight-lipped on exact numbers. However, sources estimate dozens of fatalities, over 160 injuries, and several soldiers missing.

This defeat revealed certain flaws in the government’s plan, particularly a failure to secure supply lines for their troops. 

It’s suspected that al-Shabab forces encircled the government troops soon after they entered the village on August 22.

The repercussions of the Cowsweyne assault were immediately felt, compelling the soldiers to pull back from other towns on the frontlines.

This retreat imperiled many areas reclaimed from militants since August 2022. An alarming instance was the evacuation of Gal’ad, which jeopardized senior government officials’ safety.

Presidential catastrophe averted 

In an unforeseen turn of events, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, initially unaware of the retreat, was planning a visit to Gal’ad. However, advice from two senior officials averted what could have been a catastrophe.

A UN helicopter carrying these officials narrowly escaped an ill-fated landing in a now-occupied town, thanks to timely warnings relayed to them.

Mohamud has since declared the arrest of officers who deserted their posts. "Those who abandoned their positions, or worse, traded their weapons, will face the full might of the military tribunal,” Mohamud warned.

Despite the setbacks, the government remains unfazed. Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Abdirizak Omar Mohamed emphasized, "Al-Shabab is formidable, adaptable. Yet, we’re confident that with community support, the government will emerge victorious in this war against al-Shabab

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