Defeating al-Shabab is a global public good

The murder of trainee Somali soldiers and their trainers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain by a terrorist mole within the training camp in Mogadishu earlier this week was unexpected and tragic. Indeed, how the assassinations occurred is a testament to the devious, opportunistic and cowardly evolving tactics of al-Shabab, an international terrorist group and one of al-Qaida’s most powerful affiliates which operate in Somalia and across the Horn of Africa.

Somalia has remained proudly resilient in the fight against the violent and morally and religiously bankrupt al-Shabab. Progress in combating the terrorist group accelerated in the last two years after the Somali Community defense forces, known as the “macawisley” because of the garments worn during battles, and the Somali National Army took the fight to their mainly rural bases and hideouts. This delivered real results very quickly because the Somali people whom the terrorist group had squeezed for extortion, poisoned their wells during the height of the drought, forcibly recruited their sons into terrorism and married their daughters, had joined forces with their government in a final desperate act to liberate themselves from fear and subjugation. The success of these offensives resulted in many al-Shabab senior commanders being captured, killed, surrendered or going on the run. The combat operations were further enhanced with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud joining the troops and community forces on the front line for months at a time despite the clear risk to his own life.

The support of international partners has been, and remains, vital in the fight against al-Shabab because they are international terrorists, not Somali ones, as some may mistakenly think. The terrorist group’s ultimate goal is to bring down all governments in the Horn of Africa region and to then rule with their warped version of Islam, which is built on the unIslamic foundations of indiscriminate terror and division. They also actively encourage and support other terrorist groups’ activities across the world given their strong affiliation with al-Qaida. Accordingly, al-Shabab is a problem that must be framed in the wider narrative of creating a safer world from terrorism, not just supporting Somalia’s stability. Somalia’s peace and security are an anchor for stability and prosperity across the immediate Horn of Africa and by extension, the rest of the world.

Somalia’s diverse international partners in fighting al-Shabab have been steadfast because they understand that defeating global terrorism is a global public good. Their support includes security sector training, knowledge sharing and fighting alongside the Somali National Army in the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) case. Of course, and very regrettably, many brave members of both the Somali security services and international partner forces have made the ultimate sacrifice by losing their lives including those from the Emirates and Bahrain this week. However, at this difficult moment of loss and reflection, we need to focus on the bigger picture and ensure that these honorable soldiers and the uncountable thousands of Somali civilian victims did not die in vain. In this regard, international partners should re-double their efforts to support the Somali government in maintaining the offensive momentum against al-Shabab and international terrorism at this critical time.

Defeating al-Shabab and their poisonous ideology is rightly the obsession of Somalia’s President Mohamud. He talks the talk and walks the walk in his determination and actions to this end. This is an opportunity for all international partners to continue to support him and his government for the betterment of global security and to spur sustainable development as Somalia diligently works toward fully transitioning security responsibilities from ATMIS at the end of this year.

Liban Obsiye is a Senior adviser to the President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

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