Shabab Losing Grip Of Mogadishu, Or Are They?

The last week saw AMISOM and the TFG attack on Thursday the Northern part of the frontline, moving from the Defense Ministry and taking the Officers’ House which is next to it. After resting and consolidating their hold on that part of the front line on Friday, they attacked on the southeastern part of the frontline on Saturday, taking almost the whole of Bondhere district including the strategic Interior Ministry building, getting to about 50 meters from both Sinai and Afarta Darjino road intersections. It is not clear how far they are from Florensa (also known as Hararyale) intersection, but it is not far. This means that the Wadnaha Road is now contested from Afarta Darjino in the east to Bakara intersection in the west.The latest TFG-AMISOM gains exposed a lack of coordination, flaws in organization, reduced manpower, and intelligence failure on the Shabab side.

Shabab fighters seemed to be massing on the southeastern part of the front line in Bondhere on Thursday when the Burundian soldiers of AMISOM attacked from the North, taking the Officers’ House. Again on Saturday, Shabab had their troops massed around the Defense Ministry when the coalition attacked them from the southeast in Bondhere. The failure of Shabab to accurately predict the exact direction of an attack even when they seemed to be knowing of an imminent attack suggests that they may have been fed incomplete or potentially misleading information by their sources in the TFG either deliberately or inadvertently.

Also, on Saturday morning Shabab anti-aircraft guns were positioned in Afarta Darjino intersection where they were shooting towards Bondhere, taking aim at troops they thought were TFG and AMISOM. It later turned out that they were in fact shooting at their own from the back, contributing heavily to the Shabab pullout from Bondhere. This incident exposed a lack of coordination, especially with reinforcements who don’t know Mogadishu and the front lines very well.

Also, the lack of ability to equally man the two fronts that they had suspected would be attacked shows reduced troop levels in Mogadishu, giving some weight to rumors that Shabab have been withdrawing their non-Somali fighters from Mogadishu.

All these factors suggest that Shabab is poised to change their war tactic in Mogadishu. It seems they are preparing to leave their massed positions and revert to hit-and-run strategy including assassinations, hand grenade attacks, and IED attacks.

The current security situation in Mogadishu has made it extremely hard to carry out the above operations due to the fact that all the roads in Mogadishu are closed, and it is very tricky to transport the equipment to the TFG side and even harder to plant an IED or assassinate someone.

If Shabab withdraws their military from Mogadishu they can use them for hit-and-run operations, potentially causing more damage than they can now. Also, there will be a spike in assassinations, hand grenade attacks and IED attacks due to the thinning of security with the spreading of TFG security forces from their current small area.

It seems the TFG is not prepared to fight such a war, if Shabab do withdraw from the front lines. The TFG military and Intelligence service have no real counter insurgency strategy and are prepared for fighting massed troops. Little has changed in the training of the TFG military and security forces since 2007, when the insurgency changed tactics, leaving their massed positions and stressing Urban Guerilla tactics. The change of tactics laid the foundation for the decimation of the local administration of Banadir, the crippling of the TFG intelligence with assassinations, and the destruction of military and police morale with IED attacks.

History may repeat itself again

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