U.S. Asked To Join Assault On Kismayo
June 14, 2012 (Strategy Page): In the last week Ethiopia has been withdrawing its troops from recently captured towns in Central Somalia. At least two of the towns were then reoccupied by al Shabaab gunmen and in at least one case, two locals accused of cooperating with the Ethiopians were beheaded. The Ethiopians were supposed to turn several towns over to AU (African Union) peacekeepers, who began moving outside Mogadishu two months ago. Apparently the AU forces did not show up on schedule and the Ethiopians just left.
One of the most striking changes in Mogadishu (in addition to much less violence) is the massive quantities of building materials being unloaded at the port. Many homes and businesses are being repaired, or built from scratch.
Kenya has asked the U.S. for assistance in taking the port of Kismayo from al Shabaab. Kenya wants cash and some intelligence (as in UAVs or satellite images of where al Shabaab is inside the city.) The cash is meant to defray the cost of maintaining 4,600 troops inside Somalia, and the losses expected if Kismayo is attacked. Some of the cash may also end up in the pockets of senior military and political leaders, to compensate them for the media and voter heat they will take because of the Kenyan casualties expected during a battle for Kismayo. There is another problem with Kismayo in that several local tribes and warlords claim to have the “traditional” right to control the city. These militias have fought for control of the city before, and are apparently ready to do so again once al Shabaab is expelled. Kenyan forces are slowly moving closer to Kismayo, but are still 75 kilometers away from the city center.