KAMPALA (Xinhua) — African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops in volatile Somalia have changed war tactics after their enemy — ‘Al-Shabaab’ militants — have gone underground and now using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers.
Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC) argues that there is no option but to change the warfare, noting that the ‘Al-Shabaab’ has resorted to asymmetrical warfare.
All the players in the war theater in Somalia agree that the situation has changed and the troops need to adapt quickly to the changed situation.Abdirahman Sheikh Isse, Somalia’s National Security Adviser argues that although the ‘Al-Shabaab’b has greatly weakened they have now resorted to hit and run tactics against civilian targets and humanitarian supplies.
“Theirs is a typical scorched-earth strategy designed to terrorize, isolate and eventually starve local communities to submission,” he told experts.
Crispus Kiyonga, Uganda’s defense minister argued that although the ‘Al-Shabaab’ has been weakened, there is need for the actors to stay alert as the enemy changes the fighting tactics.
Defense chiefs from the troop contributing countries this week met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and resolved that all troops must adapt to new measures of fighting ‘Al-Shabaab’.
“Terrorism is not the usual war, you will always have casualties, but the issue now is our troops to adapt as quickly as possible,” said Sidikou who also attended the military chiefs’ meeting.
“I don’t want to reveal any secrets but the operation will be on to flush them out from where they are. We have remnants of them in great numbers,” he added.
The troops, according to Sidikou have acquired some military equipment some of which is needed to clean streets and roads of IED.
He said more equipment is needed.
While the AU troops and the Somali National Army gear up to launch a renewed fight against the ‘Al-Shabaab’, there are structural challenges that need to be addressed.
At the battle front, there are a few troops and the African heads of state have re-echoed this to the international community and the UN.
However for any intervention, it has to be authorized by the UN Security Council. The Security Council authorized over 17,000 troops and this number cannot be increased unless the Council in its wisdom deems it fit.
Kiyonga, Uganda’s defense minister said that when the Council declined to increase the number of troops, the forces were promised force multipliers like attack helicopters but these have not been delivered yet.
This according to Kiyonga is a frustration to the forces at the battle front.
There have been several options that have been suggested among which include the possibility of deploying the Eastern Africa Standby Force, a regional force established to enhance peace and security.
There is also a proposal to deploy a military rapid reaction force.
“The troop contributing countries and this region will certainly look into these issues of whether we should go for more, whether having a different type of force while we continue to fight,” said Sidikou.
All these however will have to be subjected to international debate since the whole mission is funded by the international community.
The Somali government has argued that in the face of limited troops, it should be allowed to recruit militias.
These militias would fight the ‘Al-Shabaab’ in places where the AMISOM troops are not mandated to go.
This proposal is also riddled with suspicions by the troops contributing countries.
Uganda argues that will this is a welcome idea, the Somali government has to be careful not to recruit ‘Al-Shabaab’ elements.
Uganda and other troop contributing countries have also warned that the morale of the troops is likely to wane following the long delays of compensating those injured or killed.
The issue of compensation was also high on agenda at the defense chiefs meeting held in Addis Ababa this week.
Kiyonga argues that families of the deceased soldiers have to wait for more than three years to be compensated.
Sidikou said compensation is critical and the AUC is taking it as a matter of urgency.
“There is no doubt our institution is going to fast track the solution.
“This cannot go on with bureaucratic hurdles, it is just too much,” he said.