Somali Government Launches Third Round of Counter-Insurgency Operations

The Somali government has launched a third round of counter-insurgency operations targeting al-Shabaab. The latest campaign focuses on the Galmudug and Hirshabelle states, aiming to dismantle the militant group’s strongholds and restore government control in these regions.

Over 207 Incidents of Political Violence Result in 432 Deaths

During April 20 to May 24, over 207 incidents of political violence resulted in 432 deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). The Lower Shabelle region experienced the most concentrated violence, while the Mudug and Middle Juba regions reported the highest number of fatalities, with 105 and 70 deaths, respectively. This surge in violence underscores the ongoing security challenges in Somalia.

Key Incidents Include Meetings and Appointments in April and May

Key incidents during this period include significant diplomatic and political developments:

  • April 30: Turkish intelligence chief meets with Somali President in Mogadishu.
  • May 9: Somali government calls for the termination of the UN political mission.
  • May 14: UN Secretary-General appoints James Swan as head of UNSOM.
  • May 21: Somalia’s intelligence chief replaces top agency officers.
  • May 23: Somali cabinet approves a defense agreement with Kenya.

These events highlight the government’s efforts to strengthen international alliances and reconfigure its security apparatus.

Despite Previous Operations, Challenges Persist in the Campaign

Despite previous operations in August 2022 and 2023, the Somali government’s campaign has faced significant challenges, including clan infighting and military corruption. Disputes between the Hawadle and Abgal clans over power-sharing in the Hirshabelle state have led to several armed clashes, weakening the coalition against al-Shabaab. These internal conflicts have diverted attention and resources away from the fight against the insurgents.

Disputes Between Clans Lead to Armed Clashes and Weaken Coalition

A corruption scandal involving senior military officials misappropriating US-donated food rations led to the suspension of aid to elite Danab forces, further hindering the operation. The corruption scandal resulted in the withdrawal of security forces from several strategic villages, which al-Shabaab later recaptured. This setback underscores the detrimental impact of corruption on military effectiveness and territorial control.

Corruption Scandal Results in Suspension of Aid to Elite Forces

In response to these setbacks, Somali officials have engaged in talks with traditional elders and clan leaders to restore support for the government’s efforts. These discussions aim to unify various factions and bolster the legitimacy of the counter-insurgency campaign. Building trust and cooperation among clan leaders is crucial for maintaining a cohesive front against al-Shabaab.

Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab Regroups and Expands Influence in Middle Shabelle

Security analysts say Al-Shabaab has been regrouping and expanding its influence, particularly in the Middle Shabelle region. Since March, the group has consolidated control over strategic areas along key supply routes and increased attacks against Somali security forces and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops. Recently, militants have taken control of several villages, only to be temporarily pushed back by the Somali National Army (SNA) and clan militias. This cycle of territorial gains and losses highlights the persistent threat posed by the militant group.

International Partners Continue to Support Somali Security Forces

International partners, particularly the United States, continue to support Somali security forces despite setbacks. On May 15, the US donated 96 vehicles, including ambulances, to the SNA. This support is crucial as the SNA, along with special forces trained by the US and Turkey, plays a significant role in combating al-Shabaab. Continued international assistance is vital for sustaining the operational capabilities of Somali forces.

Coordination Issues Between SNA and Ministry of Defense Persist

Coordination issues between the SNA and the Ministry of Defense persist, limiting the government’s ability to hold newly liberated territories, which has allowed al-Shabaab to regroup and regain control in various regions. Military advisors say the effectiveness of the government’s renewed efforts will depend on addressing internal disputes, rooting out corruption, and maintaining robust international support. Improving coordination and ensuring transparent governance are essential steps toward a sustainable resolution of the conflict.

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