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Dec 8, 2011 | 22:20 GMT

4 mins read

Dispatch: Foreign Interventions and Jihadists in Somalia

Analyst Mark Schroeder discusses recent clashes in Mogadishu and the status of jihadists and foreign military forces in Somalia. VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: African Union peacekeepers clashed Dec. 8 with Somali jihadists in Mogadishu. Fighting in the Somali capital is just one theater of conflict in the country, and while Somali insurgents have in recent days reportedly sent reinforcements from nearby Mogadishu to the capital in addition to reactivating fighters there, significant developments are also occurring in southern and central Somalia. The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, AMISOM, still comprises about 9,000 troops, drawn from Uganda and Burundi. Kenya’s government on Dec. 7 voted to integrate their forces, numbering perhaps 4,000, into the Somali mission. The Kenyan development is not, however, to mean a material change in the disposition of Kenyan forces, who in October launched an intervention in southern Somalia. Despite their intervention going on two months, the Kenyans have not progressed beyond occupying a buffer zone along their border with Somalia. The Kenyan troops are likely to remain maintaining a cordon across their border with Somalia, and not to redeploy to Mogadishu, or elsewhere in the country. The redesignation as an AMISOM element is more likely a strategic move by Nairobi for political and propaganda purposes, as well as to acquire donor funding for the cost of their intervention. While the Kenyans try to hold down a cordon area along the southern Somali border, the Ethiopians are engaged in central Somalia making sure their cordon buffer is holding. Ethiopian forces are crossing back and forth to towns such as Beledweyne and Dusa Marreb to coordinate with pro-government Somali militia proxies. Somali jihadists are thus facing hostile operations occurring in three parts of the country: the Kenyans in southern Somalia; the Ethiopians in central Somalia; and AMISOM in Mogadishu. At this point, however, the forces hostile to the Somali jihadists are not converging. All three elements of foreign forces are operating within their respective zones and have not pushed beyond and into the heart of Somali jihadist territory. Somali jihadists have not stood static amid hostile operations against them. The Somali fighters have, however, made moves that have entrenched their practical and ideological factions. While Al Shabaab transnationalist jihadists have made moves to reinforce their troop levels in their stronghold city of Kismayo, recruiting fresh youth and adult supporters from along the southern coast of Somalia, the nationalist factions days ago formed a new entity, called the Somali Islamic Emirate, to defend their strongholds in south-central Somalia against hostile forces. Led by former top Al Shabaab leaders, the new Somali Islamic Emirate, led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Mukhtar Robow abu Mansur, have adopted a tried and tested tactic of waging a propaganda campaign to rally new forces to defend Somalia against a perceived foreign-led aggression. Somali jihadists are not likely to win back lost territory in Mogadishu, given that AMISOM, with its current troop level of 9,000, are likely to be reinforced when additional peacekeepers committed by countries like Djibouti and Sierra Leone arrive. But Al Shabaab, and this means to include the new jihadist group known as the Somali Islamic Emirate, are likely to continue to demonstrate remarkable resilience at surviving amid concerted military efforts to defeat them. Al Shabaab, or the Somali Islamic Emirate, understand their military strengths and weaknesses: that guerilla warfare is their means to survive, and that declining battle, even if this means abandoning an urban stronghold – even a city as important to them as Kismayo – is what they will do in order to reorganize and renew their insurgency. The longer that neighboring countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, intervene without achieving a breakpoint success, Somali jihadists of all stripes will be able to mobilize popular support, and use this to sustain their insurgency.
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