By Special Correspondent
There is need for leaders in the region to fully pronounce their securitization of Somalia and pledging additional support to train more of the Somali troops. The kind of support that Somalia requires from its neighbours, in the middle of a pending security withdrawal, also extends to political support. Somalia’s hope for a secure future rests on the ability of the country to build local security capability.
Imperfect as Mogadishu remains, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the peacekeeping operation launched in Somalia in March 2007 in the middle of a fragile security situation, is finally preparing an exit strategy, which is expected to end with the last boot leaving Somalia in 2020.
The withdrawal plan is expected to be executed from 2018, during which, an official process to hand over the security responsibilities of Somalia to the national security apparatus would begin.
While the protagonist force, the Al Shabaab, continue to intensify attacks (to demonstrate its capabilities to infiltrate and carry out much more complex attacks against the established forces), security analysts worry about the readiness of the Somali security forces to take on the challenge.
Andrew Franklin, Managing Director of Franklin Management Consultants, a Nairobi-based security advisory services firm says the series of terror attacks executed by the Al Shabaab in Kenyan towns like Mandera and Wajir in the north eastern Kenya region point out the weaknesses of the regional security architecture, even as the Horn of African states plan to hand over the security responsibilities.
“These attacks are carried out by a band of 300 Al Shabaab fighters in the region. The fact that this group continue to operate across the border suggests the lack of coordination between AMISOM and the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) in handling this issue,” Franklin said.
The lack of proper and adequate security equipment such as attack helicopters and armed fighting units required to conduct reconnaissance operations have all remained on the list of requests done without success.
Despite the delay in obtaining these critical equipment known in military circles as ‘force multipliers and enablers,’ security experts believe Somalia stands to gain more if all the neighbouring states were to withdraw to “forward operating bases inside their own territories”.
According to Franklin, Somalia could continue to benefit from Kenya’s military support if the troops, inside Somalia since Kenya’s entry on a “hot-pursuit” operation against the Al Shabaab in 2011, formed a security cordon along the expansive Kenya-Somalia common border to offer security.
“I support the withdrawal of the Kenyan troops to the forward operating bases inside Kenya. Through this operation, the Kenyan troops would support the national Police in securing Kenya,” Franklin said.
Somalia is also being advised to also pay close attention to the Israel security cooperation with Kenya, especially the particular components dealing with the training of the border security personnel.
“Defeating the Al Shabaab is a doable project. An ideal situation would have been to allow all the countries with troops inside Somalia to allow the freshly trained Somali soldiers to integrate with their colleagues as a way to motivate them into vigorously fighting the Al Shabaab.
The kind of support that Somalia requires from neighbours like Kenya in the middle of a pending security withdrawal also extends to political support.
The security analyst also note that despite its limited mandate to provide support and the building of the capabilities of the Somali Federal Government institutions, the AMISOM civilian component too did not fair too well in preparing the relevant civilian authorities to be capable of leading the national security.
To emphasise the need for political, technical and diplomatic support, Franklin said the measures being explored by the Kenyan government since the launch of the ‘Linda Nchi’ operation, notably, to provide support to the creation of the Jubaland administration, also remains a commendable step.
“We have never had a war this long,” Franklin said, referring to the slow progress towards ending the conflict in Somalia, essentially due to what some diplomats attribute to the lack of understanding about the political objectives of the armed terror outfit, the Al Shabaab.
Before the final exit of the troops from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, Franklin says these countries should also continue with an international campaign to be allowed to fight the Al Shabaab.
Meanwhile, the regional support for the Somalia operation could also be expanded internationally to include a proposal to the U.S. Government to request U.S. Congress for authorization of a stabilisation force for Somalia, with a mandate of anything between five to 10 years to battle the Al Shabaab.
“Defeating the Al Shabaab is a doable project,” Franklin says. According to him, an ideal situation would have been to allow all the countries with troops inside Somalia to allow the freshly trained Somali soldiers to integrate with their colleagues as a way to motivate them into vigorously fighting the Al Shabaab.
On the regional and international front, the friends of Somalia could pursue the old plan of rapidly bolstering the number of troops deployed inside Somalia to enable them expand security.