Somalia – Current Political and Security Dynamics


Somalis Worry About Potential US Troop Withdrawal From Their Fragile Country (By Mohamed Olad Hassan – November 19, 2020)(accessed on 20 November 2020)

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers and military officials in Somalia say the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, as reportedly proposed by President Donald Trump, would be disastrous and could embolden al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.   
The secretary of Somalia’s Upper House Committee on defense, Senator Ahmd Hashi, said the proposal equates to the “United States under Trump turning its back on Somalis at a critical time.”  
“As the country is heading to elections and terrorists’ threat remains strong, it’s the most critical time we need the support of the United States,” Hashi told VOA’s Somali service. “For Somalia, a U.S. troop withdrawal means a setback and moral boost for terrorists.”  
Somalia’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for late December, with the presidential election tentatively scheduled for February. 
The New York Times reported this week that Trump is planning to withdraw nearly all of the 700 U.S. military personnel conducting training and counterterrorism missions in Somalia.  The report said Trump also plans to order sharp troop reductions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hashi, who is also a former senior Somali military official, said withdrawing troops from Somalia would be “a terrible blow to the Somali Army.”   
“They have been supporting the military operations and logistics of our elite commando forces, especially the Danab unit. Under their support, this unit has been building up and getting stronger day after day, but now, if they miss this significant support, it means a reverse and waste of all the efforts the United States has put into the rebuilding of the Somali National Army,” he said.  
“We have received the news about the order of the withdrawal of our partner troops, but I do not know if it was the final and will be coming soon,” a Somali military official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about this matter.  
“What I know is that such decision would be a dangerous setback to our gains in the fight against terrorism and relief for terrorists,” the official said.

The United States also conducts frequent airstrikes against al-Shabab, which began during the administration of President Barack Obama, but which have increased since Trump took office in 2017.    

According to the Times report, the plan to remove U.S. troops from Somalia may not apply to U.S. forces stationed in nearby Kenya and Djibouti, where American drones that carry out airstrikes in Somalia are based.    

Ahmed Abdi Ali, a former member of the Security Committee of Hirshabelle State Parliament, said the drone operations are the most important form of U.S. support for Somalia.  

“The drones target the terrorist leaders in their hideouts and disrupt their operations and mobilization; therefore, they are very important for Somalia,” Ali said. “If the drone operations continue, I think U.S troops withdrawal won’t harm the general fight against the terrorists in Somalia.”  

Ali says rebuilding Somalia’s National Army is the only way to resolve the security challenges that have plagued Somalia for decades.  

“Our partners help us when we need them, but they cannot stay with us forever. It is the Somali National Army’s responsibility to take over their country’s security and the Somali friends should help them in rebuilding to an extent they can face al-Shabab threats,” Ali said.  

Abdisalam Yusuf Guled, former deputy head of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency, said a withdrawal of U.S troops from Somalia would allow al-Shabab to emerge from their hideouts in significant numbers and plan major attacks.  

“Now, the militants are only capable of carrying out an infantry guerrilla style hit-and-run attacks, suicide bombings, and assassinations because the U.S troop presence in Somalia, their drone operations, and the logistical support to Somalia’s most powerful military Unit ‘Danab’ denied them free movements. If the U.S troops withdraws, the militants will come out from the jungle and their hideouts—this time with machine gun mounted vehicles and anti-aircraft guns,” Guled said.    

Last month, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo voiced support for keeping U.S. troops in the country. He said U.S. military support has enabled the country to combat al-Shabab, and he called for continuous security partnership and capacity-building support.

(Seynab Abuka contributed to this report from Mogadishu.)


From Freedom House (accessed on 02 September 2020)

The government, which is not democratically elected, has little practical ability to implement its laws and policies even in parts of the country it controls. Its basic operations remain heavily dependent on international bodies and donor governments. Relations between the federal government and federal member states remain poor in 2019, more than a year after leaders from all five states formally suspended ties with the government in Mogadishu. Critics accuse President Farmaajo of seeking to centralize power.

Corruption is rampant in Somalia and state agencies tasked with combating it do not function effectively. Impunity is the norm for public officials accused of malfeasance.

In September 2019, President Farmaajo signed legislation that seeks to create state and national anti-corruption commissions. Meanwhile, in October, the country’s auditor general released a critical report accusing the government of bypassing the central bank to keep $18 million worth of donor funds in offshore accounts.

Government transparency is limited. Officials are not required to make public declarations of their income and assets, and oversight procedures for public contracts are not well enforced. There is no law guaranteeing public access to government information.

From (accessed on 02 September 2020)

“The security situation remained volatile, with 288 incidents in May, 269 in June and 218 in July. Most of those incidents were crime-related killings and shootings and Al-Shabaab attacks, including those using improvised explosive devices. Levels of crime and armed conflict-related incidents have remained steady since January, with a slight decline in June and July. The number of terrorism-related incidents remained at an average of around 75 per month in May and June, with 53 incidents in July.” (UN Security Council, 13 August 2020, p. 3)

“The security situation in Somalia remained volatile during the reporting period [5 November 2019 to 4 February 2020], with security incidents increasing from 239 in November to 266 in December, followed by a slight decline to 235 in January. The increase in December was recorded mainly in Al-Shabaab hit-and-run attacks targeting security forces, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (two in December compared with none in November), improvised explosive device attacks, and hand grenade attacks, as well as incidents categorized under crime. A decline was recorded in terrorism-related incidents in January, compared with December, while incidents categorized under armed conflict remained the same” (UN Security Council, 13 February 2020, p. 3)

“The security situation remained volatile during the reporting period [from 5 May to 4 August 2019]. Al-Shabaab continued to perpetrate violence, including carrying out attacks targeting government facilities and personnel, security forces, international partners, and public places such as hotels and restaurants. A total of 228 incidents occurred during Ramadan, from 5 May to 3 June; higher than in Ramadan in 2017 and 2018. Some 35 percent of violent incidents occurred in the Banaadir region, with southern Somalia accounting for 34 percent, indicating that Al-Shabaab’s operational focus did not change during the reporting period. Overall, security incidents declined significantly in June and July. There was, however, an increase in incidents involving improvised explosive devices in July, when there were several high-profile terrorist attacks.” (UN Security Council, 15 August 2019, pp. 3-4)

“U.S.-backed security forces continued offensives against Al-Shabaab: notably, unclaimed airstrikes 11 July reportedly killed dozens of Al-Shabaab militants in Jilib, Middle Juba. In north, unidentified gunmen opened fire on vehicle in Galkayo, Puntland 11 July killing at least five civilians. U.S. airstrike 27 July killed one member of Islamic State (ISIS)-Somalia.” (ICG, August 2019)[i]

“Also in Sanaag, Somaliland forces clashed with those loyal to Colonel Arre, who defected from Somaliland to Puntland in 2018, near Dhoob 10 July leaving three Somaliland soldiers and one of Arre’s soldiers dead. After Arre’s forces 26 July took Karin village, clashes broke out there next day between them and Somaliland troops, reportedly leaving two Somaliland soldiers dead.” (ICG, August 2019)

“In south, security forces killed five Al-Shabaab fighters in Gedo region 3-9 June; Al-Shabaab ambush of Kenyan soldiers in African Union mission (AMISOM) in Burgavo, Lower Juba 24 June left nine militants dead; clashes between security forces and Al-Shabaab near Bur Eyle, Bay region 22 June left eleven soldiers and five militants dead; Al-Shabaab attack on military base in Bulo Marer, Lower Shabelle 27 June left three militants and two soldiers dead; clashes between security forces and Al-Shabaab 27 June left at least eight militants dead in Jamame, Lower Juba; three Al-Shabaab militants surrendered to security forces in Bay and Gedo regions 2-11 June. In north, Al-Shabaab fighters 8 June captured military base in Af-Urur in Puntland only for Puntland forces to retake it 11 June without a fight; […] Puntland and Somaliland forces 14 June reportedly clashed in Badhan town in Sanaag region, which both administrations claim, no casualties. U.S. claimed its airstrikes killed six Islamic State (ISIS) militants and four Al-Shabaab fighters 4-25 June.” (ICG, July 2019)

“The security situation remained volatile during the reporting period [from 14 December 2018 to 4 May 2019]. Al-Shabaab continued to be the main perpetrator of attacks against government facilities, government officials, and security forces, as well as popular restaurants and hotels. March and April witnessed a significant increase in attacks in Mogadishu, where incidents involving improvised explosive devices occurred almost every day. Incidents involving suicide vehicle-borne, under-vehicle, and remote-controlled improvised explosive devices, as well as mortar attacks and targeted assassinations, continued. In March alone, there were 77 attacks using improvised explosive devices across the country. That was the highest number in any single month since 2016. The majority of incidents were reported in Mogadishu and in the Shabelle Hoose, Juba Hoose, and Gedo regions. In Mogadishu, there were 28 incidents involving improvised explosive devices, including two attacks by suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, two attacks by other vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, and one complex attack.” (UN Security Council, 15 May 2019, pp. 3-4[ii]

[i] The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a transnational non-profit, non-governmental organization that carries out field research on violent conflict and advances policies to prevent, mitigate, or resolve conflict.

[ii] The UN Security Council is an organ of the United Nations, charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.

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