EDITORIAL: In war against terrorism, Somalia will still need old friends


EDITORIAL: Somalia’s vicious cycle with al-Shabaab can understandably be tiring. And for the last 13 years or so, success and defeats have often come in quick succession.

This is why the latest partial victories against terrorists in parts of central Somalia should not make officials abandon what worked in the past. It is true that village vigilantes have given the Somali National Army a great impetus to continue pursuing terrorists in the villages. But al-Shabaab has shown often that they can pay back with the same coin anywhere, with deadly consequences.

So how should Somalia go about it? Our view is that Somalia’s counter-terrorism policy should target al-Shabaab both at home and among neighbors in the Horn, where the terrorist group has sleeper cells.

At home, security agencies are obviously more motivated to work with villagers tired of the group’s terrorism. That is crucial because locals understand their locale better and can help security forces know where to hit.

Al-Shabaab, however, has the habit of using foreign fighters as well and the thinking now is that as things heat up in Somalia, these sympathizers are likely to cross back into their homes, mostly in Kenya, where they can still pose a risk. And al-Shabaab may like that because attacking another country will most likely reduce focus on Somalia and act as a distraction, allowing al-Shabaab to rebuild their evil.

It is in President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s interest to continue his cooperation with neighbors. It is a good thing that so far, President Mohamud has visited all of Somalia’s immediate neighbors from where he pledged to continue working together with them on security and other issues.

We recognize the success already reached under the vigilante model and encourage our security forces to continue targeting al-Shabaab. But Somalia’s still-weak security institutions mean we must bank on the support of Somalia’s partners to ensure the victory is not diluted with revenge attacks.

There has been an obvious contribution to the security scene by the African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS) whose troops come from Somalia’s neighbors. And as the focus turns to rebuilding stronger institutions and dissuading al-Shabaab fighters to surrender, it just shows that we must throw everything at the terror merchants. The local scene looks better. We will need the foreign security policy to keep our partners closer, to ensure no Shabaabs filter through our fingers to go abroad and plan evil on us again.

President Mohamud’s government will be better placed to ensure security cooperation with all neighbors continues to flourish.


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