Quite a bit has taken place within Dadaab and Somalia in the last few weeks and it is difficult to summarize everything. The Dadaab camps have received a great deal of media attention while the regional draught rages. Somalia has a long history of internal strife, yet arguably the current draught is far more damaging than past instances as the country no longer contains sufficient infrastructure for aid agencies to deliver services. The inadequacy of infrastructure prompts dramatic repercussions, not only in terms famine relief but also through the inability to provide broader public health support
. With the surge of displacement, many have been refused admission
to the camps, as there are not enough resources available. The constant influx of refugees also continues to place great strain on the local communities.
Within Somalia there have been a variety of reports on al Shabaab preventing the delivery of aid
. In addition to reports of fake NGOs
attempting to take advantage of the incoming aid money, Shabaab has also listed several agencies to be banned
with the area for attempting to do more than deliver basic assistance.
I suspect the withdrawal may be a true change in tactics rather than a sign of loss or weakness. Considering that Shabaab fighters have ambushed
AMISOM soldiers sweeping into newly vacated areas, taking advantage of the urban terrain, this may be a legitimate attempt to maximize available resources and keep AMISOM forces off-balance.
Shabaab's quick acquisition of power within Somalia was possible because Shabaab groups concentrated their forces in urban areas where they could utilize transportation and communication resources, tap into ports and markets, and tax local populations. As the Somalia conflict developed and became more binary between Shabaab and the TFG, Shabaab's approach to conflict became less networked and more one-dimensional.
Since the TFG is a major supplier of arms to non-state groups
within Somalia and that unpaid soldiers
often sell ammunition for goods, there is a sufficient flow of arms
and ammunition throughout the region for Shabaab to continue its military objective yet there must be an adaptation to the changing geography. Somalia presently has 5 major cell phone providers, populations have shifted from the urban core to the corridors between towns and scattered among IDP camps and Mogadishu only contains a small fraction of its original population.
|al Shabaab Supply Trench in Mogadishu, Somalia|
Amid the geography transformation, Shabaab has grown and annexed territory yet not adapted to the changing resources. Simultaneously, the conflict has slowly become more symmetric, with Shabaab and the AMISOM forces fighting along a frontline in Mogadishu, utilizing a mixed combat method of hit-and-run tactics and trench warfare. AMISOM has been working to cover the trenches
before any future return by Shabaab troops.
The sudden withdrawal may be a sign of weakness. Yet it may also be an indicator that the conflict is about to change abruptly, to become something far more unorthodox and challenging than the TFG is equipped to confront.
**Update: Just a few hours after posting this reports have rolled in that multiple attacks
have taken place in Mogadishu with al Shabaab utilizing hit and run tactics and hidden explosive devices.