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July 25, 2015

The African Union Takes on Al Shabaab

Stratfor,com -The African Union Mission in Somalia, better known as AMISOM, has launched a renewed offensive against al Shabaab. Despite achieving major successes with the liberation of Mogadishu in August 2011 and Kismayo in September 2012, the Somali military and AMISOM failed to eradicate the jihadist militant organization. Sustained ground operations and the targeted killings of its leaders by U.S. airstrikes damaged the group, but al Shabaab is still dangerous. As well as conducting direct attacks, the group routinely interdicts the movement and supply lines of African Union forces with guerrilla-style operations. The African Union is drawing on new resources and capabilities in an attempt to defeat al Shabaab, or at least render the organization ineffective.

The fight will not be easy, however. AMISOM forces have suffered setbacks in the past, being forced to conduct tactical withdrawals from untenable positions in the face of al Shabaab attempts to dislodge them. A June 26 attack on an African Union base in the village of Lego inflicted a notable defeat on AMISOM forces, highlighting a major problem facing African Union forces as they expand their area of operations. While typically able to defeat al Shabaab in conventional head-on battles, AMISOM forces become overstretched as they project into the expansive reaches of southern Somalia. They lack the necessary resources to secure lines of communication over land and, as a result, frequently have to withdraw from newly liberated areas to protect their own personnel.

The nature of AMISOM's limitations is not lost on military commanders. In an attempt to prevent further embarrassments, major efforts to stabilize the situation are underway. The most immediate is the launch of a major offensive against known al Shabaab strongholds. Known as "Operation Jubba Corridor," separate maneuver elements converged on the city of Baardheere on July 22, successfully routing its militant defenders. Baardheere had been under al Shabaab control for six years and has served as a refuge in the fertile valley region.

Even though the Baardheere offensive was successful, it will not necessarily prevent continued al Shabaab operations. The militant group has already been forced to stop depending on territorial control; its guerrilla and terrorist attacks have become its most potent tool against African Union forces. Denying al Shabaab refuge in the Juba valley will contribute to the gradual decline of the militants' capabilities. The more territory AMISOM forces liberate, however, the more resources they will require to patrol and secure those areas. That said a weakened al Shabaab poses less of a threat to extended positions than before.
Source : Stratfor,com