Somalia and the United States reached a new partnership on military cooperation

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The Commander of the Armed Forces, General Odawaa Yusuf Rage, today held a meeting with the officers of the United States Army, who discussed the strengthening of military cooperation between the two countries.

The meeting also discussed the strengthening of operations against Al-Shabaab, at a time when the country is fighting against the group, which has been heavily defeated, according to a news release from the Ministry of Defense of Somalia.

This meeting comes two days after the US planes targeted Al-Shabaab fighters who attacked the Somali government forces.

“With the cooperation of the federal government of Somalia, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) carried out a strike against Al-Shabaab terrorists who were attacking Somali National Army forces, near Bulobarde district, approximately 218 KM northwest of Mogadishu, October 23,” said a statement from AFRICOM at the time.

The United States has been providing continuous support to the Somali government since President Joe Biden approved the Pentagon’s request to deploy US troops to the area to counter the terrorist group in May.

The Ma’wisley front and Somalia’s new strategy

Somalia is currently undergoing a war against Al-Shabaab, which has achieved great success so far, as the government and local forces have taken over areas they have controlled for many years.

A government-allied Somali militia (Ma’wisley) killed at least 45 al-Shabaab fighters and beheaded some of them, three witnesses said on Sunday, as citizens in central regions of the country increasingly take up arms against the insurgents.

Somalia is at war with a cruel, global, and morally bankrupt terrorist group that we cannot allow to live and operate in our country. If we do not root this evil and mindlessly violent group out of our society, they will destroy our future and that of the generations to come. Enough is enough! This nightmare must finally end. said president Hassan of Somalia. 

Al-Shabaab has made it their standard operating procedure to kill, maim, extort, and rob the Somali people of their hard-earned sources of livelihood and property. They remain the most existential threat to the gradually recovering Somali state. At this painfully difficult time of humanitarian and economic challenges, they continue to blow up water wells, forcefully take away people’s livestock and extort payment from struggling businesses that support families, individuals, and their communities. 

Identity and Optics

The locals whose families and community members were savagely massacred and whose properties, including water wells, were destroyed have every legal and moral right to defend themselves by any means necessary. That said, from the psychological perspective, such traumatized victims do not care about the optics currently saturating the conventional and social media platforms nor do they care if they were called Ma’wisley (the male skirt-wearing) or Da’asley (the flip flop- wearing). However, to those foreign and local actors who have been stage-managing this saga, the name does matter. It is a priceless dog whistle.

Sustained emotional discussion on the Ma’wisley issue is the most effective way of cementing the single-factor narrative (al-Shabaab) in people’s psyches. And that in turn creates collective passivity, a false sense of security, and a priceless cover for all other actors (foreign and domestic) who are engaging in various elicit and zero-sum games. The more sensationalized the story, the more effective distraction it will be.

Stay tuned for more updates on the current issues in Somalia.