MOGADISHU, Somalia – Al-Qaeda-linked militants, Al-Shabaab, are still the biggest existential threat to Somalia’s quest for peace and stability, the UN observed on Thursday, amid endless attacks on civilians and security forces.
Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, Al-Shabaab has continued to spread terror across the country, although most of the attacks have been effectively hindered by diligent Somali security forces, working closely with allies from AMISOM and the United States.
For example, Danab troops abolished an attack targeting their camp in Gedo on Thursday, just a day after the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] troops in Bilis Qooqani prevented an attack carried out by the militants against regional Kismaayo forces.
In his speech at the UN Security Council, special envoy to Somalia James Swan insisted that Al-Shabaabhot continue to “evolve” despite the group’s significant decline in elite forces in the ongoing crackdown.
Al-Shabaab, he noted, affects “threats and violence, not just through improvised explosives, mortars and murders, although these continue”. In addition, he added, “They distribute extortion, illegal commercial activities and criminal tactics”.
Cases of heavy taxation have been reported across the war-torn nation, with reports indicating that the money is being used to pay for over 5,000 active fighters and buy weapons from friendly countries believed to sponsor terrorist attacks.
The UN wondered why the group did not want to follow Secretary-General Antonio Guitre’s requests for weapons. In March, Guitere’s all armed groups asked to focus first on the Coronavirus, which has literally founded economic operations around the world.
“We regret that al-Shabaab has not embraced the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global weapons weapon and that their terrorist operations continue without delay,” the statement reads in part.
“Regarding the specific IED threat, Somali security forces would benefit from additional support to counteract this deadly threat. I look forward to the UN Director of Information Services at this session later,” the UN envoy added.
Despite his threat from the group, security forces have succeeded in liberating strategic cities across Somalia, a move which, however, gives hopes that one day the group will eventually lose ground and surrender, he said.
On the big huge takeover is the liberation of the Janaale town of Lower Shebelle, which had been used as a source of income, given that economic growth was boosted by agricultural activities in the region, he added. Security forces arrested the city on March 16.
“Somali-led forces have kept the city afloat, and federal and southwestern government efforts to return governance, justice, the rule of law and stability to the city are ongoing, with support from UNSOS and UNSOM and other partners,” the Swan said.
He also praised institutional reforms within the security forces, which have seen the US reintroduce support to the SNA, after months of withdrawal. All security forces are paid via bank accounts in violation of the previous method where they were asked to stand in line.
The envoy also acknowledged the support of the African Union Mission in Somalia, whose 20,000 troops have played an indispensable role in expelling the militants from their hiding places in an effort to establish a functional state in Somalia, after decades of civil war.
AMISOM troops will leave the war-torn nation in 2021, a reason why the UN is keen to increase capacity building in the Somali National Army [SNA] and the country’s police force.
“I welcome the federal government’s commitment to revise Somalia’s transition plan to update timelines and identify key information and gaps in response to the evolving threat from al-Shabaab,” he said. “The government has signaled its commitment to strengthen the comprehensive strategy for security, and we welcome it as well.”
Unfortunately, added Swan, COVID-19 has slowed down the international partner training needed to generate forces needed for the fight against al-Shabaab, which could affect the pace of future operations. Somalia will hold the very first universal suffrage later in December.