Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (C) attends a rally against al-Shabab in Mogadishu on 12 January 2023 (AFP)

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye. It is an independent news agency delivers unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

An ongoing counterinsurgency offensive in Somalia in recent months has put the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab terror group on the run. The challenge now is to ensure that these gains are consolidated, and the momentum is maintained and leveraged for sustainable post-conflict stabilisation.

After a deadly hotel siege that killed more than 20 people in Mogadishu, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud last August declared an "all-out war" on al-Shabab, reiterating his government's commitment to redouble and intensify efforts in the fight against the militant group. Al-Shabab has carried out several daring attacks since Mohamud's election last May, in addition to a cross-border incursion into Ethiopia and a raid on a military base on the Ethiopian-Somali border, both in July.

In line with current counterinsurgency thinking, Mohamud's "all-out war" on al-Shabab is much more than a purely military campaign. It has three main components: ideological, financial and military. 

On the ideological level, Mohamud's government has embarked on an effort to combat violent extremism. To that end, it has recruited the support of religious scholars to counter al-Shabab's ideology, while also adopting the "Khawarij" label to describe the armed group, in a bid to strip it of religious legitimacy.

On the financial side, Mohamud's campaign has included measures and mechanisms aimed at countering al-Shabab's financing. The country's Financial Reporting Centre is entrusted with regulating the flow of cash from all financial institutions, while the government is also introducing a Personal Identification Number (PIN) system for all Somalis to identify and track all financial transfers. 

Additionally, work is underway to tighten existing anti-terrorism financing and money laundering regulations, such as the 2016 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, to shut down revenue flows to al-Shabab. Somali officials have also said that the government has closed around 250 bank accounts and suspended more than 70 mobile telephone numbers linked to the armed group.

Major setback

Militarily, since the president's announcement, Somali security forces, aided by US Africa Command air strikes and local clan militias, have been engaged in high-intensity operations that have succeeded in dislodging al-Shabab from large swathes of territory in central Somalia, namely in the Hirshabelle and Galmudug states. Turkish military advisers have reportedly been assisting in operating armed drones supplied by Ankara. 

On 16 January, the Somali National Army, supported by allied local clan militias, captured several areas in Galmudug state, including the strategic coastal port town of Harardhere, northeast of the federal capital Mogadishu. This was a major setback for al-Shabab, as the town was a critical node in its supply chain....

Read the full article at Middle East Eye.