Africa AMU Homeland Security Intelligence Opinion Terrorism

African Union Troops Move on Al-Shabaab Stronghold

By William Tucker

In an interesting and underreported development, troops under the command of the African Union have moved to the outskirts of Afgoye. The city of Afgoye is just a few miles outside of the capital Mogadishu and has been under al-Shabaab control for years. If al-Shabaab loses control of Afgoye the militant group will likely lose access to much of south Somalia. As Kenyan troops have moved up the coast from Kismayo and Ethiopian troops, or affiliate militias, have come from the west taking the cities of Baidoa and Beledweyne. This arc will divide Somalia and force al-Shabaab to operate from less hospitable terrain in the north. Regional governments in Puntland and Somaliland have taken small measures against al-Shabaab as the groups command structure was looking to relocate.

Since the most recent invasion by regional forces, al-Shabaab has fought using light infantry tactics, some forms of guerilla warfare, and terrorism. Neither method has born much in the way of results as the invading forces have continued to make headway. As al-Shabaab continues to lose ground they will likely become more reliant on unconventional methods of warfare such as terrorism. Though the militant group has repeatedly shown the capability to strike at targets in Mogadishu, they have not shown a consistent ability to strike internationally. Beyond the suicide bombing in Kampala and the spate of grenade attacks in Kenya, which may be unrelated to al-Shabaab, international terrorism seems to be out of reach. Then again, such a move towards international terrorism has been rather controversial among al-Shabaab leadership. This could easily change if the group deems it necessary. All this said, keep in mind that al-Shabaab and its predecessor organizations have survived foreign incursions before. This fight is far from over.

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