Is Al Shabaab Poised For A Full Military Engagement With Ethiopian Forces?


Al-Shabaab, an Islamist military and political group seems to be engaged in whetting its sword against Ethiopia and its military force under the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). A publication, Terrorism Monitor (TM) (Vol. 21 Issue 18) wrote on 08 September that, “Al-Shabaab is increasingly threatening Ethiopia amid the escalating conflict between its militants and Ethiopian and other foreign troops in Somalia”.

This will surely be a big warning for the Ethiopian Government to watch things with a finger on the trigger style of awareness, according to some observers who follow the situation in the Horn very closely. The extremist force is said to be ready to move in full-fledged control over Somali territory thinking that ATMIS will “fully withdraw…by the end of 2024”.

As Ethiopia’s role in the intervention mission of AU in Somalia has its target against Al-Shabaab, based in Somalia and active in East Africa, the group believes that “…its most powerful neighbor [Ethiopia] will likely be a key obstacle to overcome in its efforts to gain control of Somalia …” That’s why this extremist group augmented its animosity against Ethiopia, according to TM. The repeated denouncement and citation of Ethiopia in the propaganda literature of the group indicate that there can be unexpected attacks against the African populous nation. “…a June 19 statement from al-Qaeda’s General Command called on the people of Islam as a whole to stand with their mujahedeen brothers in the Mujahedeen Youth Movement (al-Shabaab) in Somalia …to hold Ethiopia accountable for their blatant transgressions.”

The other cause for the possible attack from Al-Shabaab is the decision made on March 2, 2023, by the Ethiopian Government to dispatch more troops to Somalia outside its role in ATMIS. Garowe Online wrote in its March 02, 2023 issue that the neighboring countries Kenya and Djibouti have also promised to send additional forces. “…This came as al-Shabaab focused more of its attacks on foreign forces—including Ethiopian troops…”

Following this threat, tension seems to mount on Ethiopia’s border. The recent blow hurled by Ethiopia at Al-Shabaab in return for its attack on the border town of Dollo is a good case in point, according to TM. Moreover, the current Ethiopian situation seems to create favorable conditions for the group to attack Ethiopia. “…al-Shabaab has shown itself willing to exploit every possible opportunity to undermine Ethiopian security, including fomenting dissent from within Ethiopia, which itself is highly prone to internal strife and civil unrest…”

With this in the ground, it has not yet been known whether the Ethiopian Government has said anything about the issue.

The available source indicates that Al-Shabaab is a Sunni Islamist military and political organization based in Somalia and active elsewhere in East Africa. It is actively involved in the ongoing Somali Civil War and incorporates elements of Somali nationalism into its Islamist cause.

Africa Defense Forum of September 06, 2023 issue reported quoting Foreign Policy Magazine that Al-Shabaab may have up to 14,000 fighters left — almost double the number it had three years ago — but some of them are forced child soldiers, not hardened fighters.



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