Thursday, December 15, 2011
Kenyan forces in southern
Somalia have moved up to 70 kilometers from the border, maintaining
control of the main roads and forcing al Shabaab into the bush. Kenya
only sent 2,000 troops in, to halt the al Shabaab raids across the
Kenya is depending on local militia groups to provide the
fighters to take the main towns near the border (Kismayu, the major al
Shabaab port and Afmadow, a major trading center inland from Kismayu).
But not enough of the locals are willing to risk fighting al Shabaab for
the two towns. Meanwhile, the Kenyan Navy has cut down on al Shabaab
use of coastal sea movement. The Kenyan operation has also reduced the
number of refugees crossing into Kenya. There are already about half a
million Somali refugees in Kenya. Al Shabaab blocks a lot of foreign
food aid for starving Somalis, forcing them to flee the country (to
Ethiopia as well as Kenya.)
By recently putting their troops in Somali under the control
of Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) means that up to half the
cost of the Kenyan military operation in Somalia ($250,000 a month) as
well as technical support. U.S. and French forces in Djibouti up north
are apparently supplying air reconnaissance, although it appears to be
Kenyan warplanes carrying out bombing attacks on al Shabaab bases.
Al Shabaab has changed its mind about adopting a new name
(Imaarah Islamiya). The name change was unpopular with many al Shabaab
members and has been put on hold. Al Shabaab has more pressing problems,
mainly the fact that they are now on the defensive all over the
country. The opposition has been active, and successful, but not
aggressive. For years, al Shabaab was the aggressor, using its Islamic
radical recruits to attack aggressively and successfully. But the
opposition (clan militias and the Kenyan military) have learned how to
cope, and al Shabaab no longer has a battlefield advantage. Al Shabaab
attempts to impose lifestyle rules on the population have been very
unpopular, as has their efforts to block foreign aid (especially food).
It's a slow motion counter-offensive. It’s easy to get killed in
Somalia, and the locals are really in no hurry to speed up the process.
While al Shabaab units have left Mogadishu, smaller
terrorist groups remain, and their main activity is planting roadside
bombs and carrying out suicide bomb attacks. The objective here is to
render the city unusable for foreign aid organizations and to terrorize
the population in general.
Kenya has managed to reduce al Shabaab activity among Kenyan
Moslems, but still has problems with Somali Moslems attacking Somalis
who convert to Christianity. This can get you killed in Somalia, but
will usually only result in heckling or a beating in Kenya.
Violence continues in the northeastern statelet of Puntland,
and clans to the south. Most of the violence is centered on the city of
Galkayo, which Puntland disputes with non-Puntland clans.
December 13, 2011: In Mogadishu, a suicide truck bomb went
off a government compound, killing over 80 people. A second truck bomb
failed to detonate and was disarmed.
December 11, 2011: Bombs went off in two Kenyan towns near
the Somali border. One policeman was killed and al Shabaab was