This week, Ethiopian military leaders and Somalia’s southwest regional president Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan presided over two ceremonies for troops that had recently graduated military training.
The first occurred in Diinsoor around 24 December where two hundred Darawish paramilitary forces reportedly completing training:
Another graduation ceremony occurred in the same time frame in Buurhakaba where another batch of troops received certificates. Though reports say 400 troops graduated, photos posted online do not show all recruits in formation:
The Interim Southwest Administration (ISWA) lacks an adequate number of security forces, and Ethiopia has been instrumental in training new security forces in Somalia’s southwest and central regions (like ASWJ) for operations against al-Shabaab.
Insufficient Troops = Al-Shabaab Blockades
Training new Somali forces is crucial because an inadequate number of local troops probably has allowed al-Shabaab to take refuge in smaller areas around towns captured by coalition forces, as displayed by this map of control near Baidoa.
The town of Diinsoor is the most recent to endure the fallout from an al-Shabaab blockade. Ethiopian and Somali forces captured the town at the end of July in corresponding operations to take the major al-Shabaab hub of Baardheere in Gedo region.
However, as aforementioned, coalition forces did not hold areas between Baidoa and Diinsoor. Al-Shabaab then used its control of villages between the two cities to harass transport drivers and threaten those who tried to do business in the town, driving up the price of goods.
Al-Shabaab’s strangulation of communities through blockades is hardly televised, but the group has continued to produce propaganda videos claiming communities prosper more under its governance.
Just days ago, pro-Shabaab outlet Radio Al-Furqaan released a slick 10-minute video about how the town of Janaale was “recovering” after al-Shabaab resumed control of the town following its high-profile raid on a Ugandan base in September. It included interviews with residents and favorable shots of irrigated farm fields.
Since AMISOM and ISWA troops have to allocate most of their forces to guard major towns, the buildup of new security forces for the southwest region may contribute toward the goal of taking smaller towns that enable al-Shabaab to continue its blockading tactics.