Would the military confrontation in Somalia see an end as the US decides to re-enter the Somalian playground?
To maximise the safety and effectiveness of the US and allied forces, a persistent on-the-ground presence is required that would enable “a more effective fight against Al-Shabaab.” Currently, Biden’s hand has been forced by reports that have indicated that there could be a 71 percent increase in attacks by Al-Shabaab militants. The group, which is al-Qaeda’s largest and wealthiest affiliate, continues to have the capability to strike neighbouring countries and directly pose a threat to the US citizens and interests. This was evident when the group carried out a deadly attack on an American air base in Manda Bay, Kenya in 2020.
US troops training and advising Somali and African Union forces have made short and periodic stays in the country.
This development also coincided with the reconfiguration and transition of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) created on 1st April 2022. The ATMIS’ activities focus on the disruption of the Al-Shabaab, the mentoring and training of Somalia security forces, and joint planning with them. Without any doubt, the threat posed by Al-Shabaab highlights the need for the new Somali Government to secure a broad-based political agreement on a national security architecture that facilitates a sustainable transition to a Somali-led and Somali-owned security. To achieve this, a constant source of funding, procurement of equipment, and scaling up of air strategic support, particularly with helicopters, would be essential.
The group, which is al-Qaeda’s largest and wealthiest affiliate, continues to have the capability to strike neighbouring countries and directly pose a threat to the US citizens and interests.
President Biden’s decision to suspend a permissive set of targeting rules put in place by the Trump administration, instead of requiring requests for drone strikes to be routed through the White House, reinforces stricter White House control of US military and spy agencies' ability to plan and execute secretive missions. Furthermore, since President Biden took office, US airstrikes have largely been limited to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat or in the event of “collective” self-defence of Somali forces. Practically, this means that strikes would only have an effect if a US adviser is standing beside Somali forces. Such an approach would only provide a temporary, band-aid solution, without addressing the root causes of the conflict.
The question pertaining to resource allocation can be raised at a time when the European theatre is witnessing an ongoing war while deployment in Somalia reveals itself to be a continuation of the “forever wars.”
However, it is hard to argue that Somalia needs more US troops. It instead requires more investments in community-driven, bottom-up approaches to peace that rely on building trust and connection with locals. President Biden’s decision to renew the US war in Somalia continues to place the US in a military-first mindset, which in the past failed to yield desired outcomes. The Somali state’s legitimacy is not going to come from foreign military intervention or training. It is instead going to come from a concerted diplomatic effort to address the root causes of instability and conflict.
The US’ failed nation-building exercise in Afghanistan which resulted in Taliban rule with the withdrawal of US forces should serve as a warning and discourage the US from treading the same path in Somalia.
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Arushi Singh is a writer at the Consortium of Indo-Pacific Researchers. She has graduated from the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations (GIR) at Manipal ...Read More +
Abhishek Mishra is an Associate Fellow with the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (MP-IDSA). His research focuses on India and China’s engagement ...Read More +