By William Tucker
The counterinsurgency efforts run by the African Union and the Somali TFG have finally begun to have an impact on al-Shabaab’s ability to operate in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has been forced to rely on terrorist attacks against targets in Mogadishu as forces operating under the AU, or independently such as Kenya and Ethiopia, have forced the group from several of its strongholds in southern and central Somalia. This does not mean that al-Shabaab’s defeat is imminent; rather the group has suffered numerous setbacks over the past six months and is being forced to reconsider its strategy. Hence the move into Puntland – a self-declared autonomous region in northern Somalia.
Puntland president Abdirahman Farole has stated that several high ranking members of al-Shabaab have arrived in the region over the past few days. He went on to state that one of the goals of the move is to forge closer ties to AQAP which operates in Yemen just across the Bab al-Mandeb. While this is certainly a possibility given AQAP’s ability to operate effectively in Yemen, that doesn’t necessarily translate into an improvement in operational capability for al-Shabaab in Somalia. Worried by this new development, Farole stated that he may commit his troops to ousting the Islamist group. Al-Shabaab has repeatedly shown that it is a very capable militant movement exemplified by its ability to attack targets in Mogadishu as well as taking on conventional military forces from the AU. It is still very early and this report is still developing. Regardless, it bears close scrutiny.
Map: BBC News