On Friday, the Shabab spokesman, Ali Dhere, spoke to the Islamic Radio Al-Furqan about the group’s long-term strategy in dealing with the onslaught from the 5 African militaries bolstering Somalia’s weak military.
As already apparent from the group’s actions – and as I have pointed out earlier in this blog and elsewhere – the Shabab have time as their best friend and do intend to stay alive until the foreign invaders get tired and leave.
However, the Shabab have kind of undermined their position in my opinion by announcing their expected timeframe for the withdrawal of AMISOM.
Ali Dhere started his announcement by claiming that the Shabab destroy up to 30 allied vehicles per month and kill an average of 3 enemy troops daily, therefore “90 soldiers are killed per month… And they are not sand we are digging up [that have no end]… these are human beings [that will eventually be finished].”
“…An enemy who has invaded a foreign land – if the people of that land do not disgrace themselves [by not fighting them] – cannot stay more than 10 years, according to our calculations and as we have seen from the most powerful and richest of invaders. A sufficient example is [the occupation of and eventual withdrawal from of] the Americans in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the Americans in Iraq, and America with its western allies in Afghanistan”
So there you have it: the Shabab expect AMISOM not to stay for more than 10 years. It makes sense to assume that the group expects each country in AMISOM not to stay in Somalia for more than 10 years. In that case, what would happen if new countries kept coming in to replace the ones that may choose to withdraw?
The Shabab seem to have calculated that that won’t happen because they expect the western donors of AMISOM to run out of cash or the will to keep funding a mission that the Shabab seem to expect to have been considered a failure by then, much like Afghanistan today.
In Ali Dhere’s words: “The Africans [in AMISOM], who need aid and financial backing to stay here, have been here for 5 years… Their backers are being faced with financial and natural disasters such as the recent hurricane that God sent to the Americans… We can see victory in the horizon [in another 5 years]”.
If only they knew how cheap AMISOM is: it hasn’t cost the world in 5 years what Iraq cost the Americans in three weeks in 2003. I can see more outsourcing of wars by the west in the future. I hope future missions will be less merciless than AMISOM was in 2009-10 when it used to bomb civilian areas that were under Shabab control, as if it considered all people under Shabab rule as enemies. The mission did improve its record in subsequent years in the Mogadishu area (the Kenyans were perhaps the only AMISOM members in 2012 bombing civilians and insisting they were Shabab), but it has never been the perfect peacekeeping mission that one thinks about when one hears “peacekeeping mission”.
While the Shabab expect at least half a decade more of foreign interference according to their spokesman, they still control most of the towns and villages that are not on the main roads; even in government-controlled towns such as Marka, Afgoi, and others all across south and central Somalia, the Shabab still maintain local administrations in the villages just outside said towns. In fact, the allied forces attacking Shabab-held areas seem to be interested only in taking the main roads and whatever towns they happen to be passing through. The main Shabab bastions have always been off-road, and those will most likely be safely theirs in the foreseeable future.
Yes, the Shabab can manage to fight for 5 more years and more if need be. Sadly, given the low-budget nature of AMISOM, no one seems to be particularly eager to find a non-military solution despite the fact that the Shabab do have support in Somalia and have managed to fight for many years with mostly domestic backing.
As Al-Shabab decreases the number of its fighters and the big towns and cities it rules, it reduces its expenditure, increases efficiency of its reduced fighters who will mostly be the core reliable fighters, and be more of a pain in the ass to Somalia’s Federal government and its foreign muscle for many years to come.
Somebody asked me before Kismayo fell whether “that would be it”, that is, the loss that would make the Shabab “go”. My reply: the Shabab are here to stay. They are mostly Somalis; and as they have calculated, it is the non-Shabab foreigners that they expect to eventually leave.