Following terrorist group Taliban’s recapture of Afghanistan, focus shifts to preventing a recurrence elsewhere. And nowhere are the events in the Middle East country relatable than war-torn Somalia.
Kenya’s 2011 military intervention in Somalia in a bid to enhance regional security was the most successful offensive against Al-Shabaab. Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) recaptured huge territory, significantly degrading the terrorists to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). But despite Amisom’s military feats and capacity building for local security agencies, the group is a threat.
The fall of Kabul might embolden Al-Shabaab owing to its historic links with Taliban, who have, for years, offered military training to the Somalia-based group’s leaders in Afghanistan and supplied it with foreign fighters. Al-Shabaab militants have also used the Middle East country as a hideout. The two Islamist groups have close links to Al-Qaeda and are responsible for terrorist attacks and other atrocities.
The return to power of the Taliban dealt a major blow on the war on terror. The United States and allied foreign forces had invested in massive counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan spanning two decades. The US entered the Middle East country in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, which killed over 3,000 people. Then-Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden coordinated the attacks from Afghanistan, protected by the Taliban.
Following the shock US military withdrawal from Afghanistan from April, even after degrading Taliban, debate rages on whether Amisom should leave Somalia. A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution early this year legally extended Amisom’s mandate in Somalia until December. The UN organ mandated the AU to develop a comprehensive Somalia Transition Plan to guarantee peace and stability.
In a recent report, the Independent Assessment Team on the AU’s Engagement in and with Somalia post-2021, AU proposed four options: Amisom transits into an AU-UN multidimensional stabilisation mission; reconfigure Amisom into an AU multidimensional stabilisation mission; turn Amisom into regional standby force; or Amisom exits Somalia.
The UN, AU, development partners and troop-contributing nations favour the first option. They reason that the expanded Amisom mandate would greatly address security threats like Al-Shabaab, humanitarian issues and economic and political components. However, despite doing little to professionalise Somalia National Army (SNA) to take over from it Somalia’s political elite, led by outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, are opposed to Amisom’s continued stay in the country.
Now there are fears that an Amisom pullout can easily make Somalia fall to Al-Shabaab, which could see the country slide back into anarchy. That would be too costly to the region. Somalis need to be at the forefront supporting international interventions against Al-Shabaab for their country to prosper.