Somalia: Puntland and the struggle to contain Al shabaab Attacks
By Former Puntland Intelligence Director Abdi Hassan Hussein (Abdi Yare)
Failed political leadership and lack of experience within the ranks of Puntland security services have contributed to resurgent Al shabaab in consolidating power and carry out daring attacks against government forces without fear of retaliation.
Al shabaab group maintains bases in northern Somalia, particularly Golis Mountains. The area is considered favourable because of its in-hospitable and harsh train environment.
It offers bunkers suitable for purpose of hiding from drone attacks and it is convenient location to launch attacks against government forces without fear of without jeopardizing supply roots or fear of retaliation.
Events in the last five months bare the whole marks of resurgent Al shabaab, for example, September 1, 2017, around mid-day, Al shabaab carried out simultaneous bombs at Khat market in the heart of Af Urur village located in Golis Mountains, resulting the deaths of over 35 people, including civilians and soldiers.
Based on reliable Intelligence information, the operation was conducted via sleeper cells associated with Al shabaab that infiltrated the village without the knowledge of the Puntland forces.
June 8, 2017, Al shabaab carried out one of the most heinous acts of terrorist in Puntland soil since the establishment of Somalia's northeastern semi-autonomous state in 1998, overrunning major military base in Af Urur within the vicinity of Golis Mountains, killing and maiming over 45 soldiers and officers.
The government has declined to acknowledge the serious nature of attack, but, when Al Shabaab released the footages of the operation from beginning to the end, claiming massive victory of propaganda, the government helplessly tried to contain the political failure and initiated a fact-finding mission to ascertain what happened? How did it happened? who knew what? and why the base that was created to eradicate Al Shabaab from the region was itself a victim of the threat posed higly motivated Al shabaab fighters?
From the outset, the fact-finding committee that composed of ministerial level members who never had the experience nor the ability to thoroughly research all facts pertaining to the ability and threat level posed by Al shabaab terrorist organization and publicly report their finding for fear of tarnishing the reputation of the government.
Thus, there is no official statement from the government pertaining to what happened and the loss of live, property and equipment, a clear indication and an object failure on the part of the government to own their failure in terms of security of the state and its citizens.
Based on sound judgment and available intelligence number of inter-twined factors led to the base been overrun;
a) Lack of experience of the security officers in charge to lead Puntland forces.
b) Incorporating militants into Puntland forces without proper background checks, number of supposedly informed militants were stationed in the base during the attack.
c) It is widely reported the operation was directed within and bore the whole marks of an inside job on behalf of Al shabaab.
d) Lack of comprehensive strategy mission and directives in dealing with Al shabaab, in particularly Golis Mountains, and the misconception that if officers are stationed within the vicinity, Al shabaab will not attack. The government will not win the war by sitting and reacting to attacks rather than attacking the enemy.
e) Lack of community engagement, Al shabaab has succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the locals, albeit, through coercive and fear of prosecution.
f) Lack of coordination between security agencies withing Puntland and for that matter within the region, in particular, Somaliland, and Galmudug.
g) The policy of releasing convicted terrorists by the government still continues, despite, the warning of UN monitoring group in the final report which accused the President of Puntland, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali "Gaas" of personally ordering the release of these prisoners via back room deals.
h) Despite harsh economic time and difficult challenges, whatever resources available, the government is stiffened through corruption at the highest level. Withholding entitled salaries for civil servants and security officers, while finds the means to bribe members of the Parliament at cost of two million US dollars, to endorse lucrative deals of self-interest on behalf of International companies, amounts to treason and abuse of power, and a clear violation of the trust between the public and the government.
Indeed, pursuing such opened ended corrupt practices, encourages Al shabaab to recruit more sympathizers tired of self-interest politicians who don't care about the people.
Developing comprehensive strategy with clear guidelines and protocols is a necessary remedy and a starting point, if Al shabaab is wanted to be eradicated from and within Puntland.
Here is a list of recommendations, and actionable points, that needs to be pursued by Puntland.
a) Leaving aside Political supremacy and border disputes is necessary for Puntland government to establish closer coordination mechanism with Galmudug and Somalia, such measure leads to un-hindered information and Intelligence sharing which is significant for the defeating of Al shabaab and its affiliated organizations.
b) developing clear objects, increasing the level of Intelligence activities in areas operated by Al shabaab, provides the government with clear picture of activity, strength and capabilities of Al shabaab, including their modus operandi.
c) Empowering the judiciary and halting the release of convicted Al shabaab fighters.
d) Liaising and coordinating with International partners in the fight against Al shabaab.
e) Establishing closer coordination mechanism between the desperate Puntland security institutions.
f) Holding the senior government officials for their failure in leadership, management and accountable.
g) Eradicating corruption which is arguably the single most tool of Al shabaab propaganda to win the hearts and minds.
Aforementioned list is by no means exhausting, but, an urgent pre-requisite for the defeat of Al shabaab. Taking those steps ensures that the government is serious about tackling the menace of International terrorism from within Puntland and collectively through the region.
Former Puntland Intelligence Director Abdi Hassan Hussein (Abdi Yare) currently he is a Security analyst and a contributor to Garowe Onine
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