Sunday, October 30, 2011

In this corner - al Shaabab

The Kenyan incursion across its border into the  region known as Somalia (the national government in Mogadishu has no control over the majority of the territory – sort of a prerequisite to country status), has bogged down because of heavy rains.  Nairobi clearly intends to continue the operation up to and including seizure of the coastal city of Kismaayo – the financial and logistics hub of the al-Shaabab terrorist group.  The loss of Kismaayo will be a blow to the financial and logistical prospects of al-Shaabab which reaps the benefits of piracy, and now kidnapping of tourists, using the funds to purchase arms and materials for its activities. 

The issue is what happens when the Kenyan’s leave?  Some deal will need to be made with the tribal groups allied, more or less, with the government in Mogadishu.  Foreign troops cannot stay – that much should be obvious.  However, it is very clear that the problem of piracy and the predations of al-Shaabab, including the famine it’s control of areas is exacerbating, are not going to be solved off-shore. 
Al-Shaabab must be made to suffer heavy losses and that can only be done ultimately with boots on the ground.  Cutting them off from their source of income and headquarters in Kismaayo is a good first step, but must be quickly followed by a Mogadishu presence through one of its allies since it is incapable by itself to do so. 
The fact that the Mogadishu government has voiced official protests at the breach of its “sovereignty” is legal window dressing.  There are 8,000 foreign troops in Mogadishu (the reason al-Shaabab departed so quickly).  The US is sending in drones from neighboring Ethiopia. Failed states have no sovereign rights. The famine in the region is made worse by al-Shaabab. The attacks on civilians, kidnappings in Kenya and the mutual aid society between al-Shaabab and pirates, is a perfect scenario of R2P actions.  Support to the Kenyan government’s efforts need to be ramped up now.

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