Somalia is at the onset of the second phase of offensive operations against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab (AS). This time the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is anticipated to draw the support of Front-Line States – Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. This is during the ongoing first phase of operations that began in June 2022 following a civilian uprising in Hiraan region against the insurgents. There are already crucial lessons that can be derived from the first phase that is yet to be concluded. Evaluating these insights is essential for ensuring the success of the forthcoming and highly anticipated offensive dubbed “Black Lion”. As the government’s first anniversary approaches in a month, some key milestones are imminent. One is the first drawdown of 2000 ATMIS forces rescheduled for June 2023 following a government request. Secondly is progress towards the government’s own declaration that they would rid the country of the al-Shabaab terrorist group by July 2024. However, if the Somali government is to deliver a fatal blow to the group, it must be acknowledged that “clearing” is the easy part, as has been proven in Somalia and elsewhere.
The ongoing war against AS in Somalia highlights the government’s lack of long-term holding power in liberated areas, which significantly contributes to its struggle against the extremist group. The inability to maintain control over these areas and establish a strong government presence forces local clans to consider signing peace deals with AS to ensure their safety. This article will explore the sequence of events that demonstrate the government’s lack of staying power, examining the consequences of this inability to secure and retain control over key towns and how it pushes clans to sign peace deals with AS
To counteract its lack of holding power, the Somali government began utilizing clan militias called the Macawisley to fight against AS in July 2022. This strategy aimed to leverage the local knowledge and connections of the clan militias to better combat AS. However, AS has adapted to this new challenge by signing peace deals with clans across the country, exploiting the vulnerability of clans that lack the resilience and manpower to fight against a group with members from various clan lines.