The U.S. presented $9 million worth of equipment to the Somali National Army, which is fighting the terrorist group al-Shabaab, in a ceremony on Sunday. The ceremony was attended by Somali Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Jama and U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Larry André.
While minuscule, the aid is significant because it is the first since President Biden returned American troops to the country in May 2022 to aid Somalia’s fight against al-Shabaab.
The package included heavy weapons, support and construction vehicles, explosive ordinance disposal kits, medical supplies, and maintenance equipment for vehicles and weapons.
“We cheer the success achieved by Somali security forces in their historic fight to liberate Somali communities suffering under al-Shabaab,” said Ambassador André.
“This is a Somali-led and Somali-fought campaign. The United States reaffirms our commitment to support your effort,” the ambassador added.
Minister Nur added that the Somali military can be trusted to secure the weapons without any falling into the wrong hands. He added that the weapons will play an important role in fighting the Khawarij, which is a derogatory word to describe al-Shabaab.
The equipment has already made its way to the Danab Special Forces Brigade which is leading the fight against al-Shabaab for the Somali forces and has been trained by U.S. Special Forces.
Danab battalions are currently conducting operations in Hirshabelleand and Galmudug, in south-central Somalia to restore government control over these areas from al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab seeks negotiations for the first time
In September, al-Shabaab detonated a car bomb on a busy street in Mogadishu that killed 120 people; a month later, it stormed and laid siege to a hotel, and in early January 2023 detonated two bombs that killed 35 people in the heart of the government district.
However, now the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group is requesting negotiations with the Somali government for the first time.
Deputy Defense Minister Abdifatah Kasim told the Mogadishu media that al-Shabaab is comprised of two groups, Somalis and foreigners. “Those locals have a chance to open up negotiations, but those foreigners who invaded our country have no right for talks. The only option is to return to where they are from.”
“We are ready to receive them, for they are willing to surrender to the Somali government. They must follow the government’s instructions, reintegrate with their society, or face the Somali National Army in the front lines,” he added.
While this could be a legitimate peace initiative from al-Shabaab’s Somali members, the group’s hardcore foreign fighters and the heads of al-Qaeda may be playing for time. The terrorist group’s goal is the establishment of strict sharia law in and the removal of foreign groups from Somalia.
Feature Image: Somali government and military officials receive US aid in a ceremony on January 8, 2023. (AFRICOM)