The government of Somalia has declared “all-out war” on the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab and launched a multifaceted counterterrorism operation that, despite some early headline-grabbing military successes, is expected to be protracted and challenging.
The tenacious Al-Qaeda affiliate was expelled from Somalia’s major towns ten years ago, but it still controls large portions of the countryside, where a coalition of armed groups has been battling the rebels recently. In July, two clans in the center of drought-stricken Somalia began a rebellion against Al-Shabaab out of boredom with the organization that swiftly expanded to the Hirshabelle and Galmudug districts. In support of these clan militias, known as “macawisley” after the customary sarongs worn by its members, the Somali National Army and US-trained “lightning” commandos entered the fray in September. According to Mahmood, the militants may have given up some ground, but they still have a long game to play.