by DAVID AXE
U.S.-backed government troops are on the move in Mogadishu, bolstered by an expanded African Union peacekeeping force. Insurgent terror group Al Shabab is losing ground. With Somalia’s 20-year-long civil war entering a new phase, I spoke to former Al Shabab commander Khalif Ibrahim Noor for his perspective on the fighting and the resurgent Transitional Federal Government.
Q: What is your position?
A: I was the commanding officer of 30 Al-Shabab fighters and we have carried out attacks against Somali government soldiers and their African Union ally in several regions, for instance in Banadir, Hiran and Gedo region.
Q: What is your relationship to Al Shabab, if any?
A: Previously, I had a good relationship with Al Shabab and believed none other than them, but now I have repented and realized what they really are.
In the first place, when I joined this group in early 2009, I thought that it is a religious group, but at the end of the day I realized that the group is a political group which is disguising itself in the name of religion, and I have strong proofs for what I am saying.
The basic philosophy of this group is to remove power from the current president of Somalia, Sheikh Shariff, who was the leader of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. Al Shabab was then a member of the Islamic Courts Union, but had very brutal acts such as torturing innocent people.
Generally, I have no link with this group at this moment.
Q: How strong is Al Shabab right now?
A: Ah! Al Shabab is no longer strong, but weak. There was a time when Al Shabab was Al Shabab, but currently these guys are financially [motivated] and have no internal support from the local residents in the areas which they control.
There is also an intense political scuffle among the top leaders of Al Shabab. This happened after the leaders of some African countries who were supporting Al Shabab have been ousted from power, and of course the well-organized killing of Osama Bin Laden has, as well, caused heartbreak to them.
Q: How does that compare to a year ago?
A: This is not comparable! A year ago, Al Shabab was very strong and seemed to be unshakable, and used to receive strong funding from some countries which were contented with their ideology. But now things have changed to be vice versa.
Q: What has changed for Al Shabab?
A: Many things have changed, for instance they [Al-Shabab] have no confidence among the people, because of their evil acts in the country.
Q: What is Al Shabab’s future, in your opinion?
A: Ah! The future of Al Shabab is depressing and soon the will of the population will overwhelm that of Al Shabab, and they will have no other place to escape or hide, because during their days in control of most of the southern and central regions in Somalia, they have not created a friendly situation with the locals, but enmity.
Q: How effective is the Transitional Federal Government in fighting Al Shabab?
A: Obviously very effective! The current Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, whose PM is Mohamed Abdullah Farmajo, has come up with effective [ideas], unlike the previous government, whose PM was Sharmarke.
During Sharmarke’s era, Somali government soldiers and the other government staffs were never paid and the soldiers never defeated Al Shabab, but remained in defense.
Farmajo’s government has succeeded in paying the salaries of the Somali government soldiers and the other government staffs. Paying the military has resulted in Al-Shabab being beaten in several attacks.
Q: Are Al Shabab members joining the TFG?
A: Certainly yes, they are joining the government in greater number on a daily basis.
Q: Does the threat of U.S. commando action frighten Al Shabab members?
A: They won’t frankly say verbally that they are frightened by the actions of the American commandos, but I am sure they [are].