Somalia reclaims 1/3 of Al-Shabab territory: Revival begins

MOGADISHU, Somalia (Caasimada Online) – According to Larry André, the U.S. ambassador to Somalia, Somali government-led military operations have successfully reclaimed a third of the territory previously held by al-Shabab militants.

In an email to VOA Somali, André stated that this progress represents “one step further toward Somalia’s full revival.”

Since January, the United States has provided weapons and training to the Somali national forces to aid their efforts against al-Shabab.

The U.S. has specifically trained an elite Somali army unit known as Danab, or “lightning,” which has spearheaded the offensive against the militant group.

Militant group claims operations failed

The Somali government recently announced that military operations in the past six months had dealt a significant blow to al-Shabab.

On March 25, the Ministry of Information reported that 3,000 militants were killed and 3,700 injured during the first phase of military operations, which took place between August of the previous year and January.

Additionally, 70 towns and villages were liberated from al-Shabab control.

Despite these reports, al-Shabab has claimed that the first phase of military operations was unsuccessful. Ali Mohamoud Rage, the group’s spokesman, also known as Ali Dhere, accused the U.S. of rallying forces against the militant organization.

In an interview with an al-Shabab-affiliated radio station, Rage stated that the original plan was to eliminate al-Shabab within six months, calling the first phase “futile.”

Somali security official counters claims

Kamal Dahir Hassan Gutale, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, dismissed Rage’s assertions.

Gutale argued that the definition of failure would need to be revisited if liberating regions such as Middle Shabelle, Hiran, South Mudug, and parts of Galgadud is considered a failure.

Gutale emphasized that the “Somali people and their government made possible all those successes reached by our security forces in a very short time.”

Gutale also refuted Rage’s claim that the U.S. orchestrated the Somali military offensive, pointing out that al-Shabab is facing “young Somali soldiers who are well-trained, battle-hardened, who took the battle towards the front lines.”

He added that these soldiers have liberated over 500 kilometers from al-Shabab and continue to pursue the militant group.

Criticism ahead of second phase of operations

Government officials have announced that the second phase of military operations will begin during Ramadan. However, this phase has already faced criticism prior to its official launch.

Abdullahi Mohamed Ali Sanbalolshe, former director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, argues that preparations for the second offensive place too much focus on the government’s role and insufficient emphasis on the participation of local fighters who contributed to the first phase’s relative success.

Sanbalolshe stated that local fighters had limited awareness about the new offensive and accused the government of devaluing the roles of clans, locals, and states.

He claimed that the second offensive’s participation appears limited to the government, unlike the first phase, which involved the broader Somali community.

Defense Minister responds to criticism

In response to these concerns, Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur rejected the notion that the government undervalues the role of local fighters.

He emphasized that the fight against al-Shabab belongs to the Somali people and that regional collaboration achieved previous successes.

Nur added that most locals do not require government information about military offensives. They proactively approach the government to ask for support.