Saturday, 25 March 2017
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Analyst Mark Schroeder examines the pressures facing al Shabaab from a military offensive by Somali government and African Union forces, and internal divisions about how to respond to Somali populations suffering from severe drought conditions impacting Somalia.

Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers are
launching a fresh offensive against al Shabaab positions in the Somali
capital Mogadishu. This comes amid a couple of reports of strains and
dissent within the Somali insurgent group al Shabaab that are compounded
by a significant drought that is impacting Somalia and much of East
Africa.

Now this offensive is not the first time that TFG forces and African Union
peacekeepers have gone after al Shabaab, and in fact it's been part of a
campaign going back a couple of years, but they've never been able to gain
full control over Mogadishu. Al Shabaab to this point controls roughly
half of Mogadishu and the TFG might control the other half, but if were
not for the African Union peacekeepers, the TFG would have very little
under its control and probably would've been ejected from Mogadishu a long
time ago.

Now reports of this new offensive against al Shabaab also comes amid this
widespread drought that is impacting Somalia and much of East Africa, and
this drought has raised lots of humanitarian concerns for the population
of Somalia and others in the region. Al Shabaab itself is divided over how
to handle and respond to the drought impacting the country. Some within al
Shabaab desire that foreign aid and relief organizations come in the
country and help to respond to the populations impacted by the drought.
There are others however, notably the faction led by the overall al
Shabaab commander Godane Abu Zubayr, who do not want foreign relief
organizations to come into Somalia. Godane's fear is that the relief
organizations can be taken advantage of by people who wish to better
understand the strengths and weaknesses and to exploit that to undermine
al Shabaab.

Al Shabaab is not expected to yield very easily its gains in Mogadishu,
its territory that to this point it controls, but al Shabaab has a proven
track record of melting into the background, withdrawing from the
battlefield, pulling back to positions in the rural areas of central and
southern Somalia. So this fresh offensive in Mogadishu against al Shabaab
should be seen as an effort -- a limited effort -- to try to extend the
TFG's control in Mogadishu, but nothing more than that at this point.

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