Report: Somalia's Govt should negotiate with Al-Shabaab
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The federal republic of Somalia should contemplate negotiations with Islamist militants Al-Shabaab, a new report by the International Crisis Group suggests, adding that the war with the Al-Qaida-linked group may take longer despite efforts to degrade the terrorists.
In the report, the Crisis Group says the lethal group consistently stays a step ahead of local and regional military operations. According to the report that had been published by the United Nations earlier, Al-Shabaab controls huge swathes of rural central and southern Somalia.
"Combined with dysfunction and division among their adversaries, the militants’ agility has allowed them to embed themselves in Somali society. It also makes them hard to defeat," read part of the report, which was unveiled a few weeks after the inauguration of Hassan Mohamud.
The new report suggests that defeating the militants might be extremely difficult given their network across the country and an increasing number of recruits. There are about 5,000 active Al-Shabaab fighters in the country according to the United Nations.
The crisis group notes that the only way to save the growing insurgency is by inviting members of the group to the negotiating table to look for a political solution. The militants are fighting to dethrone the fragile UN-backed Somalia administration.
"The protracted war has cost countless lives and derailed Somalia’s state-building project. There is growing domestic and international consensus that Al-Shabaab cannot be beaten by military means alone," the report noted. "Yet there is little appetite among Somali elites or the country’s international partners for exploring alternatives, notably talks with militant leaders."
The ongoing military operations within the country, the report adds, may not add any value given the dominance of the group in rural areas within Somalia. For violence to be contained, Crisis Group noted, the time has come for the government to embrace dialogue with the group.
"Putting off efforts to engage militants in the hope of gaining the upper hand militarily or forging greater unity among elites will prolong the conflict indefinitely," the report added. "The government should seek discreet channels to Al-Shabaab leaders to test whether political negotiations and confidence-building steps might be feasible."
Somalia has been battling the militants for the last 15 years and there are indications that the war may not end soon. There are close to 22,000 African Union Transition Mission troops in the country who are set to hand over security responsibilities to the local troops in the coming months.