I wrote last night (EAT) that holding Kismayo was more important to the clan allies of the Shabab than it was to the group itself – which has been favouring withdrawing in the face of an attack by more numerous enemies – and sure enough, it turns out that the Shabab leadership had decided that they had done enough in repaying the favours of their allies by fighting so long for Kismayo, and ordered a withdrawal from the city, according to the pro-Shabab amiirnuur.com.
The Shabab vacated all their stationary defense positions in Kismayo early in the morning on the cover of darkness, leaving without having their asses shot at – that would have been a messy retreat.
I don’t think this will hurt the relations with the pro-Shabab clans, as the surprise naval attack had opened up a new front to the Kismayo defenders, necessitating a withdrawal or risk being totally surrounded. The main allied force attacking Kismayo was still about 30 KM to the NE of Kismayo, making this a safe withdrawal.
With the large numbers of fighters the Shabab had been amassing in Kismayo and whom they managed to save together with their hardware(thanks to the large numbers of mutatawi’in – volunteers – that had responded to the call to defend the biggest Shabab city), the Shabab have indeed avoided another Mogadishu.
As can be recalled, defending Mogadishu was a very divisive issue within the Shabab, with many of their leaders – including the deceased Fadil Al-Komoree, Hassan Dahir, and the intelligence chiefs, to name but a few – opposing amassing troops to fight a numerically superior and better armed force.
The Shabab had made it look (as they did in Mogadishu) like they would stay to the end in Kismayo, but in the end the Shabab have done what I had expected them to do in the beginning and withdrew from Kismayo when it became clear it was going to be a war of attrition that they could not afford to wage.
And to illustrate that the Shabab have not totally left Kismayo, today a man who had rejoiced their leaving of the city was assassinated by “unknown gunmen” – codeword for Shabab security operatives.
The war for Kismayo has entered a new phase; this can hardly be declared a victory.