Keywords: Somalia, Islamists, TFG
At an international conference held in Istanbul in May this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the situation in Somalia "the largest crisis in the world." This country has long and firmly held the primacy among the "failed states". Our own correspondent in Ethiopia reports on developments in Somalia.
The first reports of a possible large-scale military operation by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia against Islamists appeared at the end of 2009. Last summer, the internationally supported TFG managed with great difficulty to stop the offensive of the main extremist opposition groups Al-Shabab and Hizb ul-Islam on the capital of the country - Mogadishu.
Somalia has been in an ongoing civil war since the fall of Siad Barre's regime in January 1991. The state with a population of about 10 million people is actually split into several warring clan formations. Currently, the TFG, supported by African Union (AU) peacekeepers, controls only 7 of the capital's 16 districts. The south and almost all central regions of Somalia are under the control of the radical Islamist movements Al-Shabab and Hizb ul-Islam. In the north of the country, the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland has existed since 1991, and its leadership has managed to establish a relatively stable and peaceful life. In eastern Somalia, Puntland declared its sovereignty in 1998. Numerous Somali groups formed on a clan-tribal basis, in most cases, have opposite views on the issue of unification under the rule of Mogadishu.
BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL
As a result of the offensive, the TFG plans to fully retake Mogadishu and other strategic cities in southern Somalia from Al-Shabaab and Hizb ul-Islam.1 Establishing control, at least over the capital, would make it possible to create physical conditions for the work of the Government, most of whose members currently spend the vast majority of their time abroad for security reasons.2
The main role in the planned offensive is assigned to the Somali National Security Forces (NSF), which is being expanded by the constant arrival of TFG troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti, where they are being trained. It is expected that the number of NSBS, according to various estimates, should soon reach 10 thousand people.3
The TFG also looks forward to supporting the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The total number of the peacekeeping contingent, consisting of military personnel from Burundi and Uganda, reached 5,5 thousand people. 4 By the end of the year, another 1,700 soldiers are expected to be deployed to Somalia. AMISOM soldiers look much better trained professionally than their Somali counterparts. However, AMISOM's mandate only covers the protection of key TFG infrastructure and the operation of humanitarian missions.5 African Union peacekeepers are prohibited from taking direct part in offensive operations, but at the same time they have the right to take preventive actions to prevent disruption of the TFG's efforts to stabilize the situation and restore order in Somalia.6 This means that the final choice about the nature and scope of AMISOM's involvement in the offensive remains with the African Union.
In addition, the TFG is counting on substantial assistance from the moderate Islamist movement Ahlu Sunnah wal-Jama'ah (ASWM), which on March 15, 2010, with the active assistance of
Political map of Somalia today.
The African Union, the League of Arab States, the European Union and the United States signed an agreement on cooperation and power sharing. The document provides for the integration of 2,000 AFD fighters into the ranks of the NSF under a single command to fight the militants of the radical group "Al-Shabab", as well as the entry of representatives from the AFD into the 5 ministries of the Somali government.
The integration of this influential movement into the TFG could be a turning point in the balance of forces between the warring parties and change the situation in Somalia. For example, according to a UN report, the AFDF militant groups in most cases fought more effectively against radical Islamists from Al-Shabab than the armed forces controlled by the government. It is known that the movement created in 1991 by adherents of the Sufi movement in Islam took up arms in 2009 only after Al-Shabab militants destroyed the tombs and mausoleums of Sufi saints.7
ISLAMISTS AND AL-QAEDA
Al-Shabaab, under its leader Abu Zubayr, controls the northern and northeastern districts of Mogadishu. According to most estimates, the size of the group is about 5,000 people, including 8 foreigners. According to some reports, between 800 and 1,100 veterans of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are fighting on the side of al-Shabaab.9 According to observers, the Islamists receive personnel and material support from the international terrorist organization Al-Qaeda.
The main tactical unit of Al-Shabaab is a squad consisting, as a rule, of 30 to 40 fighters. The group's structure includes special operations units, including bomb squads, suicide squads, and groups that attempt to kill individuals. The militants are undergoing intensive training in training camps in the south of the country.
In the run-up to the TFG offensive, Al-Shabaab took a number of steps. First, it regrouped its forces, significantly increasing the number of fighters in Mogadishu. Secondly, the Islamists increased their shelling of TFG and AMISOM positions in order to provoke premature full-scale military operations. Third, in order to exert a psychological impact on the Somali population, extremist leaders made a number of statements that the planned offensive was completely inspired by the United States and Great Britain, which are trying to gain control of Somalia to host their military bases at all costs.10
The second main target of the TFG operation may be the Islamic group Hizb ul-Islam, whose attack tactics differ from Al-Shabab only in that its fighters do not use suicide bombers to organize terrorist attacks. Until recently, the group managed to successfully resist TFG troops in central Somalia and in Mogadishu, but now Hizb ul-Islam is on the verge of collapse. Two of the four factions that make up the group's core have announced their withdrawal from the group. Thus, Al-Shabab is losing a valuable ally, with whom the militants worked closely in preparing and carrying out attacks on TFG and AMISOM positions. The current state of relations between both groups can hardly be described as as friendly as before. In October 2009, Abu Zubayr invited the leader of Hizb ul-Islam, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweis, to join Al-Shabaab, but the latter decided to remain independent. In March 2010, Bar Ali Bar, a field commander known for his criticism of Al-Shabaab, was shot dead in the Baka Ra market in Mogadishu, and there is little doubt that Al-Shabaab was involved in the killing.11
ARE THERE ANY CHANCES OF SUCCESS?
Despite the fact that the start date of the TFG offensive against Islamists is constantly postponed for various reasons, large-scale military operations seem to be inevitable. The civilian population of Mogadishu is fleeing areas that have become noticeably more frequent in recent clashes. According to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 33,000 people left their homes between February and March 2010 alone. Somalis.
A favorable outcome for either side does not seem obvious, and the Somali offensive itself could drag on for months of bloodshed, thus exacerbating the already disastrous humanitarian situation in the country. But whatever the outcome of this confrontation, it will have significant implications for the entire Horn of Africa.
The victory of the TFG troops would enhance the legitimacy of the internationally recognized Government and strengthen the Somali people's faith in the existence of an alternative to the Sharia law imposed by Al-Shabaab in the regions of Somalia under its control, as well as create conditions for the normalization of the situation in Mogadishu and the resumption of humanitarian missions in the country. Their work was suspended earlier this year due to the inability to ensure the safety of their staff. By driving the extremists out of the capital, the TFG could make Mogadishu a stronghold for NSF operations to liberate other regions from Islamist groups.
However, the probability of success of the TFG military operation in Mogadishu is highly questionable. In May of this year, the extremists managed to oust
government forces are moving from two more districts of the capital, completely capturing the entire northern part of the city and getting close to strategically important sites, such as the presidential palace "Villa Somalia" and the port of Mogadishu. AMISOM soldiers once again saved the TFG from complete defeat. The failure of the current Government, supported by the international community, to curb the escalation of violence and establish even minimal functioning of State institutions is increasingly raising doubts among donor countries about the feasibility of continuing to provide financial assistance, up to 80% of which, according to some reports, is being stolen.
According to UN experts, the Somali National Security Forces are inefficient, disorganized and corrupt paramilitary formations whose loyalty is limited to individual high-ranking officials and officers who pursue their own personal goals of obtaining financial profit from the war and therefore do everything possible to prevent the establishment of a unified command. Moreover, recently there have been more frequent cases of desertion among the TFG military personnel due to a more than six-month delay in paying salaries. And in most cases, the escaped soldiers take their weapons with them and join the ranks of the Islamists.
Against this background, there is an increase in pirate activity in the Horn of Africa. Efforts by the international community to combat this phenomenon have so far only led to a significant expansion of the area of possible attacks: ship hijackings are increasingly taking place hundreds of kilometers off the coast of Somalia. According to the International Maritime Bureau, from January to March 2010, Somali pirates carried out 35 attacks, boarded 26 ships, fired on 18 and stole 11 ships, and took 194 sailors hostage.
Many analysts believe that a successful military operation will not immediately rid the TFG of the evils of corruption, nepotism and political inefficiency, but it will certainly help to create the conditions for stabilizing the situation in Somalia and developing the institutions necessary to address a number of challenges in the future.
If the offensive fails, the situation is likely to develop according to one of two possible scenarios, the best of which implies maintaining the status quo. At worst, pushing the TFG out of Somalia would be followed by establishing full control of the south of the country and formally declaring the creation of an Islamic State. This is why Al-Shabab is waging a relentless war against "foreign forces" and a "puppet" government. And it is under these slogans that it gathers a lot of its supporters and secures both internal and external support.
It is clear that a military operation is unlikely to liberate the country from years of chaos, violence and suffering of ordinary people, but it will certainly have an impact on the overall situation.
1 Mogadishu Braces for Government's Military Offensive // Garowe Online, March 25, 2010 - http://allafrica.com/stories/201003251092.html
Straziuso Jason 2 and Houreld Katharine. Doubts Grow on Somali Offensive's Chances at Peace // Washington Post, March 20, 2010 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/03/20/AR2010032001306.html
Gettleman Jeffrey. 3 U.S. Aiding Somalia in its Plan to Retake its Capital // New York Times, March 5, 2010 - www.nytimes.com/2010/03/06/world/africa/06somalia.html
4 U.S. Diplomat: 'We do not Plan, Direct, or Coordinate' Military Ops for Somalia Government // U.S. AFRICOM, March 13, 2009 - http://www.hoa.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=4155
5 69th Communique of the AU Peace and Security Council. African Union, January 19, 2007 - www.africa-union.org/root/AU/AUC/Departments/PSC/AMISOM/AMISOMMandat.htm
Wakabi Michael. 6 Keep the Peace, Don't Enforce It, African Union Tells Amisom // East African, February 15, 2010 http://allafrica.com/stoies/201002150073.html
Mohamed Mohamed. 7 Somali Rage at Grave Desecration // BBC, June 8, 2009 - http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/africa/8077725.stm
8 Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1853 (2008) // UN Monitoring Group, March 10, 2010, p. 15 - http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N10/246/89/PDF/N1024689.pdf?OpenEleme nt
Harnisch Christopher. 9 "The Terror Threat from Somalia," Critical Threats Project, February 12, 2010, p. 35 - 36 - www.critical-threats.org/sites/default/files/pdf_upload/analysis/CTP_Terror_Threat_From_So malia_Shabaab_Internationalization.pdf
10 Al-Shabab Vows They will Defend Against any Attacks from the US and TFG. Shabelle Media Network, March 8, 2010 - http://allafrica.com/stories/201003081352.html
Ryu Alisha. 11 Senior Islamist Leader Assassinated in Somalia // Voice of America News, March 9, 2010 - wwwl.voanews.com/english/news/africa/east/Senior-Islamist-Leader-Assassinated-in-Somalia -87120 - 337.html
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