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Somalia: Islamic Radicals In Retreat
Strategy Page
Thursday, June 21, 2012

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Al Shabaab has lost its fearsome reputation, and that has proved to be a very costly defeat. More local militias are forming to drive out al Shabaab gunmen. With so many al Shabaab gangs destroyed (by combat and desertions), the remainder have fewer allies to call on if they run into local opposition.

Many local al Shabaab groups had turned into gangsters, living off extortion and theft. Word has gotten around about the many defeats al Shabaab has suffered this year, and encouraged more opposition to the Islamic radical group.

The core al Shabaab members are preparing to shift to being terrorists. That means trying to blend in, or go hide in a thinly populated area. This is particularly unpleasant for Kenya, which has suffered from Islamic terrorism for decades. But it's a step up from al Shabaab launching raids across the border, and providing logistical support for terrorists in Kenya. The demise of al Shabaab will put an end to all that. The Islamic terrorists are handled like another criminal gang in Kenya, one that specializes in mass murder rather than stealing. Sin Somalia the final blow to al Shabaab, the Islamic army, will be the capture of Kismayo, which is now surrounded by the Kenyan armed forces (the army on the land side, the navy off shore.) Without Kismayo al Shabaab cannot afford to pay a lot of gunmen or buy weapons and equipment. They go back to being a bunch of Islamic fanatics with a dream.

Even with al Shabaab completely gone (not likely to happen soon), Somalia still has a major problem with the fact that it is the most unruly region on the planet. Sometimes described as a "failed state," that itself is optimistic. For most of the last thousand years, Somalia described an unruly region, not a unified state. Turning the place into a functioning nation is going against the nature of Somalia, which is normally a collection of tribes and warlords. Central government is not highly respected, feared or easily obeyed.

Kenya wants Somalia declared pacified so it can shut down the Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border and force the 450,000 refugees back into Somalia. The camp has become a major problem for Kenya, becoming the base for a growing number of Somali criminal gangs and terrorizing a growing number of Kenyans living near the camp. While foreign aid groups protest this plan, many of these same foreign aid groups will not allow their foreign employees to work in the camp. Kidnapping foreigners for ransom is becoming popular, and robbery has always been in fashion.

The Somali government is offering amnesty and jobs in the armed forces for al Shabaab members. The government wants to prevent, as much as possible, al Shabaab men from becoming Islamic terrorists. Many current al Shabaab are just young guys looking for a job. Al Shabaab offered one, which seemed like a good deal when al Shabaab controlled most of southern Somalia. For the last year, that job has become too dangerous for most Somalis. Those who have not been killed or captured have often deserted or accepted amnesty. For many Somalis, who you carry a gun for is just business.

Somali pirates are having a bad year. For the first half of 2011, they captured 28 ships. For the same period this year, only five have been taken. Pirate mother ships are under constant attack and most large ships operating near the Somali coast now have armed guards. The loss of mother ships makes it difficult for the pirates to go long distances to find unguarded ships. The seafaring nations are hoping that the defeat of al Shabaab on land will enable Somali security forces to shut down the pirate operations.

June 18, 2012: In the port of Hobyo, which is halfway down the east coast of Somalia, two groups of pirates fought each other. There were several casualties, and the fighting was apparently the result of one pirate group trying to steal from the other. Hobyo has long served as a base for pirates.

June 17, 2012:  In Mogadishu, a car bomb went off in a market, wounding three people. Al Shabaab took credit.

June 16, 2012: A suicide car bomber attacked troops outside Mogadishu (Afgoye) killing himself and two soldiers. Al Shabaab took credit.

The United States declassified some of its military activity in Somalia, admitting that it was American guided missiles, often launched from UAVs that caused the deaths of numerous al Qaeda and al Shabaab leaders.

June 15, 2012: Armed guards on British merchant ships now have permission to fire first when approached by pirates. Armed guards have to comply with laws applicable to the country of the owner of the ship they are on. Some European nations have very restrictive rules about the use of firearms and the pirates were taking advantage of this to get close before opening fire.



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