Central and Upper South Somalia remain economically and politically stagnant, largely because of the fluid security situation factored by a “Hybrid Warfare” (a combination asymmetrical, convectional formations, coercion, and irregular tactics) by the Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen movement (HSM). HSM strategy since 2010 has focused on fueling clan insurgency, conflation of religious extremism, and stagnating socio-political progress through fracturing clan based socioeconomic conflicts and economic sabotage to village level.
In the coming days, the Somali based Al-Qaeda branch, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen movement (HSM) will most likely focus its terrorism strategy to the Somali National Army, the Somali people, and the political class (throughout 2009-2015, clan warlords were forced to cede militia and take up politics. Shebaab will aim at destroying the political gains by their sworn enemies). The objectives of the strategy are religious political ascendancy achievable through rallying behind it or destroying the minions of the grand strategy (armed opposition groups, clan militias, and factions). These groups for the past half decade helped the terror group orchestrate fluid alliances and fissile tendencies in Central and Southern Somalia.
Why would the terrorist outfit seek to destroy the pillars of its grand strategy? Political ascendancy is a high risk balancing act. Shebaab doesn’t want a fractious leadership in the event it ascends to power rather a unified system (independent of militias loyal to warlords and clansmen). As such, the Shebaab has sought to avoid a military stalemate (acquisition of superior weaponry besides building of an army of jihadists capable of attacking and decimating enemy combatants).
The conflict between the weak federal government of Somalia and the terror outfit Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen movement (HSM) is likely to be translated into an armed conflict in 2016. Mogadishu is functional, largely because of AMISOM protection and external military support and financial support to the SNA and police. This is likely to change. However, the political class in Mogadishu has opted geopolitics and gradually sought to fortify their gains through edging out key players in their short-term political gains (Kenya and Ethiopia are viewed skeptically by the Somali political class. In recent past the politicians have sought litigation at the ICJ over border disputes). Strategic Intelligence analysts review 3 incidents and possible outcomes of these events manifestation in 2016.
Isolation of Somali National Army from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops
There is suspicion that there is a significant number of Somali National Army (SNA) troops who are sympathetic and operatives of the Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen movement. Pictures, force number, type and position of equipment, maps of AMISOM bases setup and recent events where SNA elements conducted terror attacks against AMISOM bases and SNA troops are scenarios that the terror outfit engineered.
- On 22nd August 2015, an SNA soldier detonated a SVBIED at a SNA Recruit school outside Kismayu killing 21 including SNA recruits and their trainers.
- A Uganda trained SNA soldier detonated an SVBIED at a Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) base in Janaale, Lower Shabelle region of Somalia on 1st September 2015. In the incident, dozens of UPDF soldiers were killed and a large number of jihadists killed.
By seeding mistrust in coalition partners, the Shebaab has achieved its objective. An isolated and infiltrated SNA will be vulnerable against a well armed and battle hardy terror outfit.
Asymmetrical means of acquiring weaponry and attacking capability.
Since 2014, the terror group suffered major setbacks in leadership and ability to buy and ship arms to Somalia. This was factored by the fall of Kismayu to the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF). The terror group through looting of AMISOM bases has replenished its war chest. Today, the Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen movement (HSM) is in possession of modern weaponry including anti-aircraft guns, RPG systems, and military UHF radio communications systems. It relies on a intelligence outfit and clans that support its ideology.
Somalia’s General Election and the Clan Dynamics
Al-Shabaab grip on Central and upper south Somalia regions allow it to project its tentacles thus enabling its objectives to trickle down to all regions of Somalia. The grip on the Central & Upper south is strategic. The militants can deploy to other regions based on strategic objectives. From central Somalia, the group can exert pressure to the rest of the country. The attacks on AMISOM troops is meant to exert pressure and dislodge AMISOM from the logistically, economically, politically, and militarily useful areas. By doing so, the Shabaab is posturing for leadership and control of Somalia. If supported by the clans and militias, the terrorist group will most certainly rout the Somali army (SNA) and assume the role of political kingpins if not leaders.
From the 2 regions (Central and South Somalia) Al Shabab’s regional components of the network continue to maintain the groups local control, besides allowing for terrorist training camps to operate, raise funds from taxes and extorting the local community, and manage clan relations and recruitment.
Having isolated itself geopolitically (Somali government) and militarily (SNA suspect profile), the Somali based Al-Qaeda branch, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen movement (HSM) is likely to destabilize or gain political mileage in Somalia in 2016 and beyond. To preempt this ascendancy, the Somali’s have no choice but to go back to their neighbors and remain loyal to the AMISOM cause. Anything else including foreign intervention is suicide.