OP-ED: The Importance of Liberating El Bur and the Fight Against Al Shabab


Today's liberation of El Bur from Al Shabab not only stands as a symbol of progress but is also a testament to the unwavering commitment to restore peace and security in Somalia. This event signifies more than just the recapture of a town; it is the conclusion of the first successful phase to eradicate Al Shabab, and a major step towards a secure Somalia.

Al Shabab, an extremist militant group, has been a thorn in the side of East Africa for years. Its reign of terror has crippled infrastructures, inhibited economic development, and caused the loss of countless innocent lives. El Bur, a strategic location in central Somalia, has long been one of its strongholds. Liberating it is not just about reclaiming territory, but also about striking a psychological blow against the group's morale.

The success in El Bur underscores the importance of strategic planning and the necessity for regional cooperation. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, understanding the gravitas of the situation, showcased a meticulous approach to combating Al Shabab. Under his leadership, a multi-faceted strategy was employed that not only involved military action but also emphasized local communities, consulting with traditional elders, social engagement, and regional collaboration.

President Mohamud realized that to defeat an ideology, it wasn't sufficient to only win on the battlefield. Thus, efforts were made to alienate Al Shabab from the local populace, depriving them of their most significant resource: the tacit or explicit support of the communities in which they operated. By ensuring the availability of basic services and promoting dialogues on peace, the administration began winning hearts and minds.

Furthermore, the war against Al Shabab was never a lone journey for Somalia. President Mohamud reached out to neighboring countries, and with the support of ATMIS, a united front was established. This solidarity was vital in both deterring Al Shabab and showcasing to the world that East Africa was united against extremism.

The liberation of El Bur should be celebrated, but it should also serve as a reminder. While it concludes the first phase of a broader campaign, the war against extremism is far from over. The success in El Bur has set a precedent; a model that can be replicated in other areas still under Al Shabab’s grip.

To truly ensure the lasting defeat of Al Shabab and similar groups, the focus must now shift to rebuilding and fortifying these liberated areas, investing in education, and promoting social cohesion. It's a long road ahead, but the liberation of El Bur proves that with resilience, unity, and strategic planning, peace is attainable.

While the strategic planning and ground operations were of undeniable importance in the campaign against Al Shabab, the role of air support provided by Türkiye and AFRICOM was pivotal. This synergy from international partners made it possible for the Somali forces to recapture numerous towns and villages in the GalMudug and HirShabelle regions, extending beyond the monumental liberation of El Bur.

Türkiye, with its longstanding commitment to supporting the stabilization efforts in Somalia, provided vital air cover that not only weakened Al Shabab’s defences but also prevented reinforcements and supply routes from bolstering the group's grip on key areas. Their air operations effectively disrupted the militant group's logistics, making it increasingly difficult for them to maintain their territorial hold.

Similarly, AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) played a significant role by executing precise airstrikes on strategic Al Shabab targets. These actions were not just about direct engagement; they had a profound psychological impact. By demonstrating the reach and precision of air capabilities, it demoralized Al Shabab fighters and boosted the morale of Somali National Army troops and AMISOM forces.

The success in GalMudug and HirShabelle is not solely a result of boots on the ground. The skies above these regions were active with the hum of aircraft, which were crucial in providing surveillance, intelligence, and, when necessary, direct engagement. The collaboration between Somali forces and their international partners, especially Türkiye and AFRICOM, exemplified how unified efforts can yield impressive results against extremist threats.

The restoration of peace and security in Somalia is not an endeavor of a single entity. It's a collective effort, where international partnerships play a significant role. Türkiye and AFRICOM’s air support in the GalMudug and HirShabelle regions underscores the importance of global cooperation in the fight against extremism. Their contributions, along with the sacrifices of countless soldiers and civilians, are helping to pave the way for a brighter, more secure Somalia.

Ismail D. Osman: Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him osmando@gmail.com @osmando

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