Somalia’s government-led forces appear to have conducted important operations recently that have pushed back Al-Shabab, the extremist group that has terrorized Somalia for a decade. The capture of Al-Shabab areas along the Indian Ocean is seen as an important achievement. It is being heralded as a victory. However, considering the long-suffering of people in Somalia and previous changes in the country, it is difficult to know if this offensive will have long-lasting effects.
According to reports at Al-Ain and Al-Jazeera, the Somali government have liberated the port town of Harardhere and the town of Galcad. These victories were announced by Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur. This has other implications as well because pirates have also operated from these areas. Back in 2009 Somali pirates briefly took control of the MV Maersk Alabama. That story was later chronicled in a film with Tom Hanks.
Who is al-Shabab?
Al-Shabab is a vicious organization that has worked with Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. It is often behind horrid terror attacks and it is part of a network of groups stretching across Africa’s Sahel region that have destabilized countries and committed major crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing and bombings. “Haradhere and Galcad districts have been taken from the hands of the al-Shabab terrorists,” Nur said. “This means al-Shabab is overpowered and gone. The remaining towns will also be liberated soon.”
Al Jazeera noted that “the successes have led some officials to claim al-Shabab is on its last legs. However, experts have cautioned that the group has been pushed out of major towns before only to regroup and reclaim areas the army does not have the capacity to hold.” Omar Mahmood, International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for East Africa told Al Jazeera that “Al-Shabab is definitely under pressure but they play a long game.”
There is now hope that Al-Shabab may be defeated and that Somalia could emerge from decades of civil conflict. Al-Ain media in the UAE noted that the recent operations may “ignite the enthusiasm of the clans in the competition for liberation from the extremist organization, and increase the flow of international and Arab material support, in addition to the high levels of momentum for the operation." This means that countries in the Gulf could increase aid to Somalia.
Somalia has received aid in the past from the Gulf and also from Turkey. Many countries have an interest in security in this region of Africa. For instance Somaliland, a de facto sovereign state, is also important for security in this area.
The breakdown of Somalia in the 1990s has been a constant source of problems both for the people in the country and the wider region, including Kenya, Ethiopia and other areas. This area also affects security in Yemen and areas adjoining the Gulf.