US Only Seeks To Weaken Al-Shabaab To Reach Political Settlement.

The US goal in Somalia is to weaken Al-Al-Shabaab militarily in order to achieve a political settlement, senior officials of the US Africa Command said on Wednesday.

“We’re not talking about annihilating it, getting rid of it completely,” Ambassador Alexander Laskaris, AFRICOM’s Civilian Deputy Commander, said ofAl-Shabaab in a press briefing. Instead, he explained, the US aims to “slowly degrade it, reduce it to manageable proportions.” Insurgencies of the sort underway in Somalia for more than a decade are likely to end by means of “a hybrid of military pressure and political accommodation,” Mr Laskaris suggested.

“I don’t care how it’s done,” he added in regard to the way in which a political settlement might be reached between Somali warring parties, “but it needs to be done consistent with Somali culture.”

The political dimension of the conflict in Somalia is at least as important as the military dimension, Mr Laskaris said. Engaging with Somali civilians while exploiting divisions within Al-Shabaab is less expensive and potentially more effective than military operations, he noted.

“Al-Shabaab is not a monolith,” the State Department official said. Some of the clans and sub-clans that supply it with fighters may be more willing than other sources of Al-Shabaab strength to strike deals with Somali authorities, he suggested.

“It’s appropriate to explore how to coax people off the battlefield,” Mr Laskaris added. A key aim, he said, is to “create an exit ramp” whereby defectors can safely leave Al-Shabaab’s ranks.

The stepped-up US air attacks on Al-Shabaab targets have put the group “on the defensive,” added Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, Africom’s intelligence director. “They are on the defensive, restrained in their movement and broken in their ability to command their forces,” she said.

Source: Daily Nation