Mogadishu, Somalia – In an effort to bolster the ongoing campaign against al-Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Shabaab, the Federal Government of Somalia has appointed General Ibrahim Sheekh Muhyadin Adow as the new Chief of Defense Forces, replacing General Odawaa Yusuf Raagg. Jimale, a notable commander of the 60th Brigade of the Presidential Guard, now carries the mantle of revitalizing the offensive against al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab’s control over large parts of rural South-Central Somalia represents a formidable challenge to the SNA and the Somali government. Despite local militia forces, or “Ma’awisley”, being deployed to combat this, maintaining control over recently liberated towns has proven difficult due to persistent al-Shabaab attacks. A tragic attack on May 26, 2023, on the Forward Operating Base in Bulo Mareer, resulting in the loss of 54 Ugandan peacekeepers, stands as a grim reminder of these challenges.
A key part of General Adow’s mandate is to lessen the SNA’s dependence on the US-trained “Danab” and Turkish-trained “Gorgor” commando forces. Although these units have been instrumental in front-line operations against al-Shabaab, the remaining SNA forces and clan-based militias, with lesser resources and training, have had to hold the reclaimed territories. This necessitates improved coordination and intelligence sharing within the SNA and with other security bodies, like the National Security Intelligence Agency (NISA) and the Somali Police Force.
The ascension of General Adow marks a potential turning point in the fight against al-Shabaab. The group has been exploiting vulnerabilities within Somali society, including clan divisions, to maintain its influence. To counter this effectively, understanding these dynamics is essential.
Somalia’s clans, with significant power and influence, have been strategically targeted by al-Shabaab, capitalizing on grievances and perceived neglect by the central government to secure support. Some clans, due to historical grievances or limited social services provided by al-Shabaab, have developed sympathy towards the group. In addition, al-Shabaab has fanned clan rivalries, leveraging clan loyalties to solidify its position.
Addressing the grievances of marginalized clans and building trust between them and the central government is critical to Adow’s strategy to counter al-Shabaab. By addressing socio-economic disparities and presenting alternatives to al-Shabaab’s support, the SNA can erode the group’s influence.
Enhancing intelligence-gathering to identify al-Shabaab’s network within the militias and security forces is also necessary. The presence of al-Shabaab’s Amniyaat intelligence agency within these forces presents a significant challenge. Implementing robust vetting procedures, promoting intelligence-sharing mechanisms, and providing continuous training programs will be crucial in this regard.
To disrupt al-Shabaab’s operations effectively, General Adow must ensure collaboration with the NISA and the Somali Police Force. Coordination and intelligence sharing will be key in dismantling al-Shabaab’s infrastructure, disrupting their financial networks, and targeting their leadership.
Ultimately, General Adow’s success against al-Shabaab will depend on a holistic approach that considers not just military operations but also the underlying social, economic, and political factors that contribute to al-Shabaab’s resilience. Strengthening the SNA, engaging with clan-based militias, and implementing targeted community development initiatives will be vital to restoring stability and security in Somalia.