The Galmudug frontline is collapsing: According to sources within the Somali National Army (SNA), al-Shabaab recaptured the town of Wabho. The SNA forces, together with Ma’awisley militias, are abandoning the liberated areas in Galgaduud. Today in the morning, al-Shabaab captured the Wabho district without any resistance after the government forces withdrew. This comes as the government troops left Budbud yesterday and suffered a humiliating defeat at Osweyne.
Wabho (Wabxo), Galgaduud, Galmudug, SOMALIA. By Dalmar:
The Islamist group al-Shabaab confirmed this morning that their fighters are in Wabho, a strategic town between Mahaas and El Buur. The government forces reportedly withdrew from the village prior to al-Shabaab’s arrival without putting up a fight. They moved to Mahaas in Middle Shabelle.
“Heavily armed forces belonging to the al-Shabaab Mujahideen have entered the Wabho district in the Galgaduud region, which the apostate militias [al-Shabaab’s pejorative term for the Somali Security Forces] took a few days ago. The Mujahideen forces have completely controlled the district after the apostate militias fled the town,” al-Shabaab affiliated media said.
The Somali Digest was able to verify the statement with reliable sources on the ground. Indeed, Wabho is now under al-Shabaab’s control. A source within the SNA forces fighting in the region told us that the troops withdrew to prevent another massacre similar to the one in Osweyne. “The government forces left the town of Wabho early in the day, and it is now under al-Shabaab’s control,” the source stated.
The entire frontline is collapsing
The government of Somalia has been constantly downplaying the extent of their losses to al-Shabaab. On Saturday, when al-Shabaab retook Osweyne, killing soldiers and capturing others, the government claimed that the SNA and Ma’awisley foiled the attack after receiving prior intelligence, utterly lying to the Somali public. Moreover, the government’s flawed strategy and inability to hold the captured territories will now endanger hundreds of soldiers’ lives.
The whole southern line of operations in Galgaduud seems to be collapsing. Al-Shabaab captured Osweyne, Budbud, and today even Wabho. The troops that withdrew from Wabho moved to Mahaas in Middle Shabelle.
Finalizing Phase I of anti-al-Shabaab operations ‘surreal’
The focus of the next hours and days will most likely be on the recently liberated El Buur. Al-Shabaab now completely encircled the strategic town. What the government recently presented as a major victory against the insurgents might soon become one the biggest nightmares for the government soldiers. Some of those trapped in El Buur are Danab, the special forces trained by the United States. If accurate, these forces could receive air support from the U.S. if al-Shabaab attacks.
With the current breakdown across the frontline, it is difficult to imagine that Phase I of operations aimed at rooting out al-Shabaab from Galmudug could wrap up anytime soon. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is still in the State’s capital Dhuusamareeb, reportedly ‘spearheading‘ the operations.
However, the recent experiences in Budbud, Osweyne, and now Wabho underscore the imperative for a comprehensive reassessment of military strategy. Quick gains have proven insufficient for ensuring long-term stability. A multi-faceted approach that incorporates military force with initiatives aimed at political reconciliation and economic development is essential.
History of temporary victories and rapid losses in Wabho
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.
In November 2022, the Somali government captured Wabho, only for al-Shabaab to reclaim it days later after the government withdrew. Most recently, the SNA took control of Wabho a week ago, only to lose it again to al-Shabaab this morning.
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.