Thursday, March 29, 2012
In the far south, Kenyan
troops are finding that their allies, two local anti-Shabaab militias,
both affiliated with the TNG (Transitional National Government), don't
get along. This is common with tribal militias in Somalia.
Shabaab has problems with this factionalism. The Kenyan allies often
will not cooperate and sometimes threaten Kenyan troops or refuse order,
or requests, to operate against al Shabaab.
Kenyan troops have proved too much for al Shabaab to handle.
The Kenyan troops are better trained, armed and led. Most importantly,
the Kenyans have air power, for reconnaissance and bombing. Local allies
also provide lots of intelligence, and help with guarding towns and
roads. This has kept al Shabaab on the defensive, moving back when the
Kenyans advance. But the Kenyans are reluctant to go after the major al
Shabaab base, the port of Kismayo. Al Shabaab would be declared dead
(even though they would still be around) if Kismayo were lost, so the
Kenyans are aware that it would be a major fight to take the port. The
Kenyans are hoping al Shabaab will weaken sufficiently that they will
simply abandon Kismayo. This is unlikely, but the Kenyans remain
March 26, 2012: For the third time, al Shabaab men in
Mogadishu fired several mortar shells at the presidential palace, but
again missed and hit civilians, killing two this time. There are very
few al Shabaab left in Mogadishu, but those that remain have fallen back
Ethiopian and local Sufi militiamen pushed al Shabaab out of
the southern town of El Bur, which is 150 kilometers from the Ethiopian
border. This is the fourth town Ethiopian forces have helped force al
Shabaab out of in the last four months. Al Shabaab, weakened by
desertions, casualties and fewer recruits, has been forced out of a
growing number of areas in the past year. This further demoralizes al
Shabaab members and reduces their ranks still more.
March 25, 2012: For the first time, Somali pirates seized a
merchant ship off the Maldives islands, which are 3,000 kilometers from
Somalia. The pirates have to go farther from Somalia to avoid detection
and capture by the anti-piracy patrol.
March 23, 2012: The EU agreed to extend its anti-piracy
patrol two years and allow EU forces to attack pirates on land. Exactly
what form this will take is still unclear. Meanwhile, the anti-piracy
patrol has quietly adopted more aggressive tactics against the pirates
over the last year. Warships know what pirate mother ships look like and
go after them constantly. The mother ships are boarded and inspected.
Even if the pirates have thrown their weapons and boarding gear
overboard, it's hard for the Somalis to hide the fact that they are not
fishermen. The Somalis are arrested and left with only enough fuel and
water to get back to Somalia, or their mother ship is sunk and the
Somalis are taken back Somalia and left on a beach. If the original crew
of fishermen is present, they get their ship back. While this is still
"catch and release", the pirates consider the loss of equipment or
mother ships (which are stolen sea-going fishing ships) a cost of doing
business. These crews of captured fishing ships are often forced to work
for the pirates (running the ship under pirate orders) or are killed.
The fishing ship crews are the little noted victims of the Somali
pirates. Some of these ships are ransomed, but most are used for a while
and released with their crews (usually as a reward for participating in
the capture of a larger ship) or the crew is killed and the ships are
used until pirate mismanagement renders them useless, or the ships are
destroyed by the anti-piracy patrol. It takes time to restock a mother
ship, or get another one, and so many mother ships have been lost that
the pirates are less frequently at sea. Those that are out there are
easier to keep track of.
March 22, 2012: Ethiopian and local Sufi militiamen pushed
al Shabaab out of the town of Hudur, which is 100 kilometers from the
Ethiopian border. This is the third town Ethiopian forces have helped
liberate from al Shabaab in the last four months.