Regional leaders plan joint military campaign against al-Shabab in Somalia

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The leaders of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia have agreed to begin a joint military campaign, referred to as “search and destroy,” to push al-Shabab militants out of Somalia.

The offensive comes after Somalia’s federal government regained control of several cities and villages in central Somalia with the help of the United States military, Somali regional governments, and allied clan militias.

The Presidents of Kenya, William Ruto, Djibouti, Ismail Omer Guelleh, and The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, met their Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu to review strategies to weaken and disrupt al Shabab.

“The summit … agreed to jointly plan and organize a robust operational campaign at the frontline states level, of search and destroy on multiple frontlines aiming at key al Shabab strongholds across the south and central Somalia,” they said in a joint statement.

“The time-sensitive campaign will prevent any future infiltrating elements in the region,” the communique said, without providing any details about the operation. However, further details still need to be provided.

The four countries also contribute troops to the African Transition Mission in Somalia, an African-Union peacekeeping force.

Just before the meeting, militant groups fired mortars in a district near the president’s office. No casualties were reported.  

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the meeting “reaffirms our resolve to rid our region of terrorism permanently.” Kenya’s President William Ruto added that peace was within reach due to the “collective effort in anti-terrorism.”

Kenya’s President William Ruto said peace was within reach due to the “collective effort in anti-terrorism.”

Al-Shabab has been fighting to topple the central government of Somalia and establish its own rule based on Islamic Sharia law since 2006, despite recent pushback from the government.

The group has carried out attacks in hotels, military bases, and government establishments in Somalia and Kenya to pressure it into withdrawing its troops from the African Union peacekeeping mission.

According to a Western humanitarian official who spoke on condition of anonymity, more territory has been taken from al-Shabab in the past six months than in the past five years.

This is due to local communities rising against the group’s harsh taxation amid Somalia’s worst drought on record and the government quickly supporting local militia fighters in the offensive.

However, some observers see eliminating al-Shabab as daunting, as the group has proven effective without holding territory.

Despite Somalia’s commitment to defeating al-Shabab, some believe it will be difficult. According to a humanitarian official who spoke anonymously, al-Shabab has demonstrated its capability even without controlling territory.