Continued Terrorism Confrontation by Somalia Against Al-Shabaab

When considering terrorist activity in Somalia since the beginning of 2024, it is clear that there has been an increase in terrorist incidents compared to previous years, especially since 2016. This surge in terrorist activity reflects the ongoing security challenges facing Somalia, undermining efforts aimed at achieving stability and peace in the country.

This situation underscores the importance of addressing the roots and funding sources of terrorism, enhancing international cooperation to combat terrorism, and bolstering security in the region. Additionally, it appears that Somalia needs international support and assistance in building its security capabilities and strengthening its security institutions to effectively combat terrorism.

It is crucial for the international community to take seriously the threat of terrorism in Somalia and provide necessary support to the Somali government to effectively confront these challenges and assist in building a secure and prosperous future for its people.

While these data, despite being detrimental to Somalis, on the other hand, illustrate that decisions made by the Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, have harmed the “Al-Qaeda” branch, namely the terrorist Al-Shabaab movement, putting it on the defensive before being expelled from its former strongholds.

In northern Somalia, the “ISIS” branch continues its activities in the country, launching scattered attacks in the capital Mogadishu, perhaps to prove its presence in areas of southern Puntland.

The assistance and cooperation of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya with Somalia are crucial in this battle against terrorists. In this case, Kenyans are the ones suffering the most because the terrorist “Al-Shabaab” movement, which is being pursued by Somalis and both Djibouti and Ethiopia, seeks to control some territories in northeastern Kenya where they also face strong opposition from the Kenyan army.

There is some evidence that these countries are moving in the right direction, and the fact that terrorists in Somalia are facing increasing difficulty in recruiting fighters, which is also happening in Kenya, which has so far been the main recruiting ground for the “Al-Shabaab” movement. Kenyans realize that terrorism is not only fought with weapons, so they are working with Muslim clerics to teach positive ideologies. “Al-Shabaab” still exploits social deprivation to recruit fighters, in addition to religion, as one of the main reasons for the fighting they engage in, which is why Kenya is working in the most deprived areas that have been fertile ground for recruitment.

The terrorist organization “ISIS” is present in South Africa, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, the coastal countries, and until recently in southern Libya and Sinai in Egypt. On the other hand, the terrorist “Al-Shabaab” movement, a branch of Al-Qaeda in Somalia, recruits Tanzanians and Ugandans to fight in Somalia. Kenyans who have gone to fight alongside the “Al-Shabaab” movement return disappointed, prompting recruitment networks to search for fighters elsewhere.

“Jihadist” terrorism is still on the rise and will benefit in the coming years from population growth unaccompanied by social prosperity, so terrorists are expected to seek areas with low defensive capabilities where they can stay without inflicting many casualties. This underscores the importance of forcefully countering terrorists from the outset, otherwise they will choose these areas as bases and establish their camps, as Somalia has experienced in recent years.

Intelligence and defense cooperation with neighboring countries are necessary, if not crucial, because otherwise, terrorists are allowed to move across borders in search of places to stay and seek refuge. We must overcome differences between countries and make counterterrorism a priority if we want to avoid being affected by the phenomenon.

The Quadrilateral Group consisting of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia provides a lesson in how to work against terrorism. If a country takes action against terrorists without relying on its neighbors, it may temporarily avoid the problem by terrorists temporarily resorting to the weaker state, but undoubtedly once terrorists strengthen, they will return to it, and certainly with more severity.

Emirati Presence in Somalia

In 1993 and 1994, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sent 640 men belonging to the “Duty Forces” to participate in the humanitarian mission under the “Unified Task Force” with a total of 37,000 soldiers in Somalia. They also contributed to the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) peacekeeping mission and provided several military units and a field hospital. Three Emirati soldiers were killed in battles. With the prolonged Somali civil war and the withdrawal of international forces, the UAE assumed the role of a donor entity.

Subsequently, the UAE engaged at various levels with the Federal Government of Somalia, the autonomous region of Puntland, and the Republic of Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991:

In 2010, following increased piracy off the Somali coast, the UAE began funding the training of “Puntland Maritime Police Force” by a South African security company. This contract ended in a scandal in 2012; however, Abu Dhabi seemingly continued to finance the forces and maintained good relations with the Puntland administration. In 2017, UAE’s “DP World” company (Emirati “Dubai Ports World”) signed a 30-year contract through its subsidiary “P&O Ports” to develop and manage the port of Bosaso in Puntland on the Gulf of Aden coast.

In 2016, DP World UAE signed an agreement with the Republic of Somaliland to upgrade the Berbera port. Additionally, the UAE committed to building a military base near the airport and seaport in the city and training police and army forces in the Republic of Somaliland. They also planned to construct a highway connecting Berbera to Wajaale on the border with Ethiopia. This project will enhance Emirati presence in the Gulf of Aden, as Berbera is 483 kilometers south of a UAE base in the Eritrean city of Assab. Emirati presence in Berbera, Assab, and Bosaso helped combat piracy, prevent smuggling of Iranian weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen, and transport Sudanese fighters to conduct operations against Houthis in southern Yemen.

The UAE officially began implementing a program to train forces of the Federal Government of Somalia in 2014. A year later, they opened a training center in Mogadishu, where Emirati forces trained Somali commandos. The UAE also provided vehicles to Jubaland forces, the Ministry of Internal Security, and the police in the federal government. By 2018, Abu Dhabi reported training thousands of Somali soldiers, building training centers and a hospital, and paying salaries for 2407 soldiers. Abu Dhabi canceled the training mission after Somali forces seized $9.6 million from a UAE plane in Mogadishu on April 8, 2018, claiming it was unauthorized US dollars. Tensions had been escalating before the incident, as Somalia chose to remain neutral after the diplomatic crisis with Qatar in 2017, although the UAE urged Mogadishu to stand with it.

Relations with the federal government improved after Hassan Sheikh Mohamud returned to power in the presidential elections on May 15, 2022, thanks to significant Emirati financial support. Days later, $9.6 million, previously seized by Somali forces, was released. In February 2023, Mogadishu approved an official security cooperation agreement with Abu Dhabi, and a month later, UAE military vehicles arrived in Jubaland to start building a new base owned and operated by the UAE.

Overall, UAE contributions to Somalia have been largely positive, including assistance in financing the development of the “Somali National Army” and the modernization of Berbera Airport, which is currently being considered for use by the “United States Africa Command.” The UAE conducts some operations away from the limelight, such as those in Puntland against Iranian arms smugglers.

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