Following the unfortunate fall of Osweyne on 26 August, a silence enveloped the eastern Galgaduud and parts of Middle Shabelle. This void in military operations was not a strategic retreat but a reaction to a deeper issue – an internal discord within the military ranks that couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The mutiny wasn’t a simple case of a few disaffected soldiers. It was deep-rooted and wide-ranging, spanning the regular Somali National Army (SNA), the elite Gorgor forces, and the U.S.-trained Danab units. Their collective decision to leave their strategic posts resulted in the military granting a significant portion of its frontline forces a 45-day leave. In any military strategy, such a large-scale, simultaneous leave creates operational vulnerabilities, but in the context of Somalia, the repercussions can be profound.
The forecasted El Nino rains pose logistical nightmares for the government’s efforts. Mobilizing troops, transporting heavy weaponry, establishing bases, and ensuring supply lines in heavy rains is a herculean task. This makes the planned resurgence of operations in October more of a challenge than an opportunity.
The rains, however, might wash away the benefits of the recent African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) withdrawal technical delay, rendering large stretches of land impassable and disrupting any planned operations. Roads become muddy pathways, bridges risk being washed away, and troop movements become predictably bottlenecked at certain passable routes, making them easy targets.
This begs the question: With a mutiny that has stripped the military of a significant portion of its fighting force and seasonal rains that will hinder any immediate large-scale operations, what is the military’s game plan?
Current operational status
Presently, on the operational front, there is a conspicuous absence of activity. An unusual stillness seems to have replaced the typical buzz of strategic planning, troop mobilization, and frontline engagements characteristic of active military operations. This operational hiatus, while possibly providing a short-term respite for the troops, raises further questions about the military’s immediate strategy and its ability to counteract insurgent advances during this lull.
It’s worth noting that pauses aren’t inherently negative. They can provide forces time to regroup, train, strategize, and ensure that when they launch the next offensive, it is more coordinated and potent than the last. But this is not a standard pause. The silence on the frontlines and the chilling lack of activity, as the Somali Digest detailed here, paint a picture of a military grappling with both internal and external challenges.
Internally, the discord within the ranks underscores the importance of troop morale, adequate pay, and faith in the employed strategy. The SNA and associated units need reassurance, and they need it fast. External challenges, meanwhile, do not originate just from al-Shabaab or the impending rains but also include rebuilding trust with the local populace.
A daunting season ahead
Somalia’s military faces a daunting season ahead. The operation pause is less the calm before the storm and more an uneasy lull as multiple storms converge. The challenges are manifold: from internal discord to external pressures, from nature’s fury in the form of rains to the persistent threat of insurgent groups capitalizing on these setbacks. While the path to stability seems riddled with obstacles, the true mettle of the Somali forces and their leadership will be determined by how they navigate this treacherous path.