The Somali National Army (SNA) has reportedly taken control of the town of Wabho, located strategically between Mahaas and El Buur, a significant milestone in the government’s ongoing efforts to liberate the region from al-Shabaab. However, the history of control in this region underscores a pattern of temporary victories and rapid losses, raising questions about the government’s capacity to maintain control.
Mogadishu, SOMALIA. Analysis by the Editorial Team:
Wabho, a critical hub in Galgaduud, has experienced multiple changes in control since 2014. Ethiopian forces initially captured the town from al-Shabaab in August of that year but lost it to a swift al-Shabaab counterattack in December. A second Ethiopian campaign to retake the town succeeded in October 2015, only to see forces abandon it in June 2016. Most recently, in November 2022, the Somali government captured Wabho, only for al-Shabaab to reclaim it days later after the government withdrew.
This relentless back-and-forth underscores a deeper concern: the lack of staying power on the part of government and allied forces. Wabho’s strategic importance makes it a prized possession for both sides, yet neither has managed to secure and sustain control.
El Buur: Another case of fleeting victory
The situation in nearby El Buur further illustrates the challenge of maintaining liberated territories. In April 2017, al-Shabaab retook the town after Ethiopian troops, who had occupied it for almost three years, abandoned it. The withdrawal and subsequent loss of El Buur to the Islamists has been emblematic of a broader trend in the region.
Analysis: The need for a sustainable strategy
The SNA’s capture of Wabho signifies an essential advance in the ongoing struggle against al-Shabaab. Yet, in light of the region’s turbulent history, analysts and experts caution that success will require more than just military victories.
A sustainable solution may necessitate a multifaceted approach, encompassing strategic military planning, strong governance, investment in infrastructure, and social development programs to build trust within the community. Such a comprehensive strategy might offer the best chance to turn temporary gains into enduring stability in Wabho, Mahaas, El Buur, and the broader Galgaduud region.
The continual shift in control of these key areas serves as a potent reminder of the complexity of the situation. The government and its allies will need to learn from past experiences and develop a cohesive and long-term plan. The battle for Wabho and its neighbouring towns is emblematic of broader challenges, and its resolution may set a precedent for future efforts to bring lasting peace to the region.