Written by 11:42 am Opinions/Analysis

Stop the outlandish parallels: Somalia is not Afghanistan!

By Xirsi Adiya

Somalia is not Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not Somalia!

While both Somalia and Afghanistan may have had troubles in the recent past, equating what happens in one country to the other is sheer ignorance if not utter laziness. In the past weeks the events unfolding in Afghanistan with the almost total takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban after the United States withdrawal, there has been increased comparisons made by lay people online between those events and the event of the imminent AMISOM withdrawal which is expected in the near future.

In this article, I will seek to delink these hypotheticals made and put into perspective the stark differences between Afghanistan, US withdrawal &  the Taliban and the world away; Somalia under Somali national Army after AMISOM withdrawal.

Is Amisom comparable to USA presence?

 Amisom has always been just over 20,000 troops whereas USA alone has had 110,000 troops without counting the other NATO forces from troop contributing countries in Afghanistan with NATO level trained and the most sophisticated land, air and sea armaments while Amisom does not have any advanced weaponry or equipment. It is also important to note that Amisom has not conducted an operation in three years.

 Is Al-Shabab comparable to Taliban?

Taliban was a defacto recognized entity and effectively ruled over Afghanistan before being dislodged from power in post 9/11 War on Terror while Al-Shabab has never had a full stranglehold over the whole country but a reactionary insurgency that took up arms against the existing foreign forces only to end up too emboldened and now is a full on nuisance, however both Taliban and Al-Shabab believe in a strict form of vigilante Islam that seeks to excommunicate any and every other person that sees the world differently. 

 Taliban which has an active fighting force of over 85,000 compared to Al-Shabab’s fewer than 6000 fighters, had always had way more advanced weaponry since their precursor (the founding members) were of fought alongside the mujahideen were heavily armed by the Americans with the help of Pakistani intelligence in their fight against the Soviets as a Cold War strategy which succeeded in crippling the communist world order. Talibans draw on an existing long term tactics and networks formed more than 40 years with the support of the Ronald Reagan administration to the mujahideen was in the billions of dollars with the most sophisticated of weaponry that existed, so advanced was their arsenal that they had stinger missiles which shot down Russian aircraft like they were low flying insects. The flow of foreign jihadis and foreign money was, however illegal it is today, an open secret. Al-Shabab is nothing but an outfit of wannabes who can only dream of such immense international support let alone local and regional support.

In the same conflict as Somalia the ethnic make up of Afghanistan is heavily tribal with majority of Talibs being from the Pashtun ethnic group, who have more of their brethren across the Pakistani border than in mainland Afghanistan. Pashtuns from madrassas in Pakistan flock to join Taliban ranks while mosques in Pakistan actively fundraise for Taliban causes.  Al-Shabab on the other hand has a few foreign fighters from the Kenyan and East African coast, the ‘muhajiruun brigade’ as they like to call themselves often get locked up or even killed if they dare go against their Somali militants and it doesn’t surprise anyone that the international jihad wont work in Somalia, thank God!  

What have Amisom actually done?

Amisom is multinational composed of. Burundi, Uganda,Kenya,Ethiopia and Djibouti forces with each controlling their sectors. There is not a single one of those contingents which has not killed innocent defenseless non-combatant people. Just recently Burundi forces killed 6 civilians and planted weapons. So incompetent they were that they used weapon variants never seen in Somalia! 

 There is not a single one of those contingents which has not killed innocent people. Just recently Burundi forces killed 6 civilians and planted weapons. Kenya Defense Forces constantly bombs cell towers and killing nomads in Gedo region. A total of 78 air strikes in the region in 10 years but number of Al-Shabab terrorists killed in them is none. Who can forget their charcoal sale deals with the enemy militants they were tasked to root out?

KDF and Djibouti have also heavily meddle in Internal affairs of Somalia which violates their mandate as they both have vested interests. KDF also openly backs militias within Somalia which have fought against Somali National Army that were fully disarmed an cleared off the Somalia-Kenya border.

There are more SNA bases in Somalia than AMISOM bases as their divisions are not entirely reliable and in almost all AMISOM locations there is also SNA present.

In terms of capacity; the Somali National Army is ready to take over bases from AMISOM and start the withdraw process, AMISOM has already handed over numerous bases and the SNA have proven to manage them accordingly it should also be noted that SNA have been conducting their own operations with no AMISOM help or support.

As for operations:

In the past few years, Gorgor have shaped up to be the most effective force within SNA.

– They have liberated new territory 

– Held areas

– Repulsed Al-Shabab attacks

This shows that with proper training and streamlined recruitment that the Somali National Army  is the only force needed within Somalia.

The writer is a defense analyst who focuses on conflicts and arms movement across the Horn of Africa, Middle East and wider worldwide insurgencies.

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