Pontus Marine

Friday, October 13, 2017

Somalia: Dubious Distinction



(Strategy Page )- Heavier rains have returned to Somalia this year but that in turn has led to an outbreak of cholera in areas with poor sanitation. This is a problem for much of East Africa but is worst in Somalia where most of the damage has been done. So far over 77,000 Somalis have been infected by cholera and more than 1,100 have died as a result. There is still hunger in many parts of Somalia and the problems are not so much al Shabaab deliberately keeping food out (or asking for large bribes the aid groups can’t afford) but rather general mayhem as the dozens of clans look out for themselves as the expense of anyone else (Somali or foreigner). That chaos sustains the culture of corruption that is the one thing about Somalia that is world class (most corrupt nation in the world for several years in a row).
Much of the territory al Shabaab still controls is theirs because the Islamic terror group has become more adept at exploiting clan feuds and general dislike for foreigners, especially the 22,000 peacekeepers. Although most of these troops are from other African nations that, in Somali eyes, makes this “foreign invasion” even more intolerable. For many Somalis even Somali soldiers from another clan are seen as foreigners and treated as such.
While al Shabaab manages to thrive on the endemic chaos and corruption they do have some new problems in the form of more aggressive and effective American military efforts to destroy Islamic terrorism in Somalia. The current (since early 2017) American government has allowed their military commanders to do what they feel is most effective to get the job done and not rely on a lot of micromanagement from lawyers and politicians back in Washington DC. That decision has made a big difference and al Shabaab has to devote more attention to keeping its leaders and key people alive. Then there are the Turks, who recently opened a military base in Somalia for training local troops. Al Shabaab is making fewer attacks and most seem aimed mostly to get publicity rather than achieve any practical (to a group like al Shabaab) goal.
October 8, 2017: In Mogadishu an Al Shabaab grenade attack on a group of police left three policemen wounded. The attacker fled.
October 2, 2017: Turkey officially opened its new base on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Construction of the four square kilometer base took two years and its main purpose is to train up to 1,500 troops at a time in various military specialties. Several hundred Turkish military personnel are assigned at this base, the largest Turkey maintains outside Turkey. After opening its new embassy in Mogadishu in mid-2016 the Turks concentrated on completing the military base located between the capital and the airport. The new embassy compound is near the beach and is the largest Turkish embassy in the world. Since 2011 Turkey has provided more than $900 million in aid for Somalia and the new military base will be used to train Somali soldiers as well as troops from other parts of Africa. Turkey is making a statement; that is will help Somalia and will not be driven out by threats. Turkey has always provided Turkish security personnel for its embassy. The local outlaws and Islamic terrorists quickly found that the Turks were as tough as their reputation implied. Al Shabaab still makes threats against the Turks in Somalia, but usually chooses a less dangerous target.


October 9, 2017: In the north (Puntland) Al Shabaab attacked a police station and ambushed the police reinforcements before fleeing. Three police and four civilians were killed and 13 more wounded in the pre-dawn attack.

Al Shabaab cannot make as many attacks as it used to and suffering defeat going after the Turks makes little sense, even to Islamic radicals. The new embassy and military base are part of a growing Turkish presence in Somalia. Turkey has been a major provider of aid to Somalia from Moslem nations. Western countries still provide most of the aid to Somalia and Turkey is trying to encourage wealthy Moslem nations to change that, at least when it comes to Moslem nations in need. Turkey established an embassy in Somalia in 2011 (one of the first nations to do so) and a Turkish airline was one of the first to establish regular commercial service to Somalia in 2012. Senior Turkish officials (including the president) have visited Somalia, despite al Shabaab threats, and that gave other potential investors and aid donors’ encouragement. Encouraged by the Turkish example non-Moslem nations are now reopening their embassies. In 2013 Britain did so. British diplomats were withdrawn in 1991 and had been gone ever since. But embassies are one thing, massive food or economic aid that must be sent all over the country is another.
Elsewhere in Mogadishu a peacekeeper vehicle hit a landmine and was destroyed. Apparently there were no fatalities.
October 1, 2017: In the north the feud between Puntland and Somalia is still active and a three month state of emergency was declared to help deal with it. Peace talks with Puntland broke down on September 28. The feud is actually between Puntland and Galmudug, an autonomous region of Somalia just south of Puntland. Galmudug was formed in 2006, has a population of about 1.8 million and considers it an autonomous region of Somalia rather than an independent state.
Northern Somalia is another matter. In the 1990s to Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million), which formed northernmost Somalia, declared themselves independent. Somalia was unable to do much about it but as Somalia began forming a government after 2010 it eventually established economic and diplomatic relations with the two separatist areas. In 2014 Puntland cut diplomatic relations with Somalia over a Somali plan to reunite the northern province of Mudug at the expense of Puntland. Back in the 1990s clan wars in Mudug caused the province to be divided. The northern part joined Puntland while the southern half did not. Now Somalia wanted to reunite Mudug and Puntland saw that as aggression. Somalia says it will work with the UN to do it peacefully but Puntland still sees it as a land grab. Meanwhile some of the Mudug clans in the Puntland want to join with the Mudug clans in Somalia to form a separate state and are willing to fight Puntland over the issue. At the same time Puntland is threatened by Somaliland because of territorial disputes. It is more peaceful in the far north but that is a relative term in this part of the world.
Another side-effect of the Puntland feud is that it prevents Galmudug from keeping pirates from resuming use of local ports like Hur and Hobyo which long served as a base for pirates until Galmudug shut down the pirates in 2012. The pirate gangs continued to operate out of Puntland ports but these ports were more closely watched by the anti-piracy patrol.
September 29, 2017: In the south (Barire, 50 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu) al Shabaab attacked an army base using two suicide car bombers and gunmen. At least 17 soldiers were killed, mostly during the start of the assault when a suicide car bomb exploded at the main gate. The attackers lost 18 men but stole 11 vehicles and escaped.
September 28, 2017: In Mogadishu an Al Shabaab suicide car bomber, apparently seeking to attack a military unit collided with a mini-bus killing seven civilians and wounding six.
September 18, 2017: Unrest among ethnic Somalis next door in Ethiopia continues and the fighting has left at least fifty dead in the last two weeks. This time it’s not violence against Somalia but between ethnic Somalis in eastern Ethiopia and the Oromo people who live to the west. The Ethiopian province of Ogaden, which comprises most of eastern Ethiopia contains a largely ethnic Somali population. To the west is Oromia, where the largest minority in Ethiopia (the Oromo) predominate. There have long been territorial disputes along the Ogaden-Oromia border and these have flared up again in 2017.
Meanwhile many Somalis believe Ogaden belongs to Somalia. Islamic radicals in Somalia have long sought to conquer Ogaden but the Ethiopians have been defeating these efforts for generations. That is not going to change, especially since oil and gas has been discovered in Ogaden, and drilling is underway. In 2015 Somalia and Ethiopia signed an agreement to not provide rebels from the other nations with sanctuary.
September 16, 2017: In Mogadishu a police counter-terrorism force, searching for hostile clan militiamen reported in the area, opened fire on an army patrol that was mistaken for the hostile militiamen. Before true identities could be established nine people were shot dead, one of them a civilian and the others police or soldiers. It was later discovered that the tip about the hostile militiamen was inaccurate.
September 13, 2017: In the south (near Jilib about 260 kilometers south of Mogadishu) American UAVs hit three targets killing six Al Shabaab members. All that was revealed was that the airstrikes were in support of peacekeeper and Somali army operations in the area. In the last three months the U.S. has carried out about 14 airstrikes in Somalia, usually at Islamic terrorist leaders or bases (where bombs were made and ammo stored). Many of the attacks have been in or around Jilib and nearby Barire an area north of the port of Kismayo that has been a base area for al Shabaab since they lost Kismayo in 2012.
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