TRENDS study suggests that the confrontation between the Somali government and Al-Shabaab movement will soon turn into a war of attrition


TRENDS Research and Advisory released a recent study that expected an open-ended confrontation between the Somali government and Al-Shabaab movement that would turn the violent conflict into a protracted war of attrition. The expected open war would be difficult to resolve in favor of either side. The study stressed that the Somali Al-Shabab movement has become a major source of violent extremism in the Horn of Africa. The extremist movement’s ambitions transcend the borders of Somalia and the movement is trying hard to establish external chapters in some East African countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia.

The study entitled: “The Somali government and Al-Shabaab movement: the reality of the confrontation and its implications” was prepared by Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Amin Andari, academic and researcher in political science, international relations and international law – Mauritania. The author said that the confrontation in Somalia between the government and the Al-Shabaab movement raises many questions about the reality of this confrontation, its root causes and the nature of the balance of power between the two sides.


Three Possible Scenarios

The study anticipated three possible scenarios in relation to the possible outcome of the confrontation between the two sides, namely: “The victory of the government and the coalition supporting it over Al-Shabaab. The second possibility is that Al-Shabaab movement could possibly withstand the government’s campaign and the last scenarios could be the continuation of the confrontation, without either side being able to deliver a decisive victory”.

The first scenario suggests a victory of the Somali government and the coalition supporting it, and their success in eliminating the insurgency movement. However, this depends on certain factors, the most important of which is the resilience of the Somali government to mobilize support locally and internationally for the success of its anti-terrorism approach. It depends also on the success of the Somali government in developing its combat capabilities to the greatest degree possible.


Al-Shabaab sustain resistance

The second scenario is Al-Shabaab’s ability to withstand the campaign launched by the government. This scenario is likely to happen as a result of the movement’s success in consolidating its strength as well as other factors that might weaken the government’s resolve. These factors include Al-Shabaab’s success in retaining its strength and building a chance to rebound in combat and financial capabilities. The insurgency movement could achieve this through the continuation of recruitment operations, reform of its strained relations with the local clans, the decline in coordination efforts between the government and the coalition forces supporting it and an ill-conceived withdrawal of African forces from Somalia.


An Open Confrontation

The study hypothesizes a third scenario, which is the continuation of the confrontation between the Somali government and Al-Shabaab and the failure of either side to sustain its resilience in this confrontation to eliminate the other party completely. This scenario is most likely, especially in the short and medium term, due to the great power parity between the two sides of the confrontation.

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