Jubaland, Somalia –
Mohamud Sayid Aden, the Deputy President of Jubaland, expressed his concerns in an interview with VOA Somali, stating that the withdrawal of ATMIS forces from several forward operating bases (FOBs) presents a significant opportunity for al-Shabaab.
Jubaland’s Vice President seems deeply worried about the potential threats the public faces due to the withdrawal of ATMIS forces. According to him, al-Shabaab may seek revenge against those who opposed them.
“It [the drawdown] should have been halted. We have repeatedly raised this issue and discussed it in the national forum. However, things are proceeding according to [original] plan, and ATMIS forces are determined to leave the country. The previous government was responsible for this plan,” remarked the Vice President of Jubaland.
He further emphasized that neither the Jubaland forces nor the federal government’s forces are currently prepared to assume control of the bases that the departing ATMIS forces have vacated.
Al-Shabaab’s attack on Giriley base
Shortly after Mr. Aden’s interview with VOA Somali, al-Shabaab launched an attack on Giriley base in the Gedo province of southern Somalia. This base was one of the FOBs handed over by the Kenya Defence Forces contingent serving under ATMIS to the so-called Darwish Forces.
The Darwish Forces carry out both military and police functions. They operate independently from the Somali National Army (SNA) and are under the direction of Federal Member State presidents. Despite their diverse origins, Darwish Forces serve as a significant power base for influential political figures, resembling a praetorian guard that offers protection and the potential use of force against rivals.
“The khawarij [referring to al-Shabaab] attacked the army after the maghrib [sunset] prayers. Fortunately, we had received intelligence about the attack, and our army swiftly positioned itself in a better location. When al-Shabaab initiated their gunfire, they were confronted by prepared soldiers who opened fire from an unexpected position,” stated the Ministry of Internal Security of Jubaland State.
Ill-conceived ATMIS withdrawal?
The government of Somalia is currently grappling with numerous challenges. Suppose influential officials in Jubaland, such as Mr Aden, perceive the current exit plan for ATMIS as ill-conceived. In that case, it will be challenging to convince both the Somali general public and the international community that the central government has the situation under control.
Following the attack on Giriley in Gedo, several critical questions arise. Firstly, can the Somali forces, whether government, Darwish, or clan militias, effectively defend the FOBs vacated by ATMIS? Secondly, if not, will the withdrawal of ATMIS forces continue as planned?