US Supports Somalia’s Offensive Against Extremists: The United States has donated $9 million worth of weapons, vehicles, medical supplies and other equipment to the Somali National Armed Forces to help them fight the extremist group al-Shebab.
US Supports Somalia’s Offensive Against Extremists
The United States has donated $9 million worth of weapons, vehicles, medical supplies and other equipment to the Somali National Armed Forces to help them fight the extremist group al-Shebab.
The equipment, officially transferred in a Jan. 8 ceremony, includes support and construction vehicles, explosive ordnance disposal kits, medical supplies and maintenance equipment for vehicles and weapons. Most of the supplies were shipped to Galmudug and Hirshabelle states to support Somali National Armed Forces soldiers.
Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur said, “Let me express the appreciation of the Federal Government of Somalia to the Government of the United States of America for the continued support of the peace building process in Somalia and support in the fight against terrorism. This support is provided at a critical time for our forces as we enhance their combat capabilities against al-Shebab.”
The government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, elected president in May 2022, has declared an “all-out war” against the terrorist organization that has plagued the country for decades.
Al-Shebab has proven difficult to defeat
Al-Shebab has proven difficult to defeat, integrating itself into Somali society in an effort to create an Islamist extremist state. According to an Associated Press (AP) report, the extremist group has perfected its exploitation of clan divisions and forces traders and farmers to pay it millions of dollars annually “to impose an Islamic caliphate.”
The insurgency remains the country’s greatest security challenge. The group controls large areas in the south of the country and continues to conduct deadly attacks on civilians and international forces.
In the areas it controls, al-Shebab enforces a particularly repressive interpretation of sharia law, banning cinema, music, smoking, Western clothing and shaving beards.
The Council on Foreign Relations reports, “Adulterers and suspected thieves have been punished by stoning and amputation. At the same time, the group prohibits cooperation with humanitarian agencies, which poses an excruciating challenge in the face of unprecedented drought.”
The drought is becoming catastrophic for the country’s population. Animals are not surviving, crops are dying and millions of people are starving. The drought has forced Somalis to flee al-Shebab-controlled communities and seek temporary housing.
Somalia says that since August 2022 more than 1,200 militants have been killed in its renewed national offensive, although such reports cannot be verified. But news agencies report that the most recent Somali strikes are beginning to produce results.
Villagers agreed to take up arms against Al-Shebab
In August 2022, residents of a village in central Somalia learned that Somali forces had expelled al-Shebab fighters in nearby townships. A small group of villagers met secretly with Somali troop commanders and agreed to take up arms, “joining a local militia alongside Somali forces in rural battles with makeshift weapons,” according to the AP.
Samira Gaid, a former security adviser to the Somali government, says popular support for national troops is new, after years of extremist oppression.
“It’s still a remarkable offensive because we are seeing for the first time an awakening of the citizens supported by the federal government,” she tells the AP. Previously, Somalis watched as organizations such as the African Union and soldiers from neighboring countries, including Ethiopia and Kenya, engaged in combat.
US Supports Somalia’s Offensive Against Extremist
In January, more than 300 Muslim clerics gathered in Mogadishu to declare their support for the country in the war against the militant group. Voice of America reports that the meeting was the first time in many years that Somali clerics of all persuasions of Islam had come together to denounce terrorism. Even the conservative Wahhabi sect that has been accused of supporting al-Shebab attended.
U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Larry Andre said, “We applaud the success of Somali security forces in their historic fight to free Somali communities suffering under the yoke of al-Shebab. This is a campaign that is Somali-led and Somali-performed.”