Yesterday I wondered whether the Transitional Federal Government was beginning to gain the advantage in the ongoing fighting in Mogadishu against al Shabab. Uganda’s announcement that it could deploy as many as 20,000 peacekeepers to Somalia suggests that the TFG’s advantage could grow even more in the months to come:
In a statement released by his office late Monday, [Ugandan President Yoweri] Museveni said Uganda can provide the force if it can get the required logistics and equipment. He said a few committed African nations with military capacity should take on the job of pacifying Somalia.
Mr. Museveni made the comments earlier in the day to a group of visiting generals from European Union states.
Ugandan troops make up most of the [African Union] peacekeeping force of 7,200 in Somalia.
I had difficulty finding estimates of al Shabab’s troop strength, but one writer puts it at about 5,000 men. I am a skeptic regarding counter-insurgency doctrine and I believe that rebel groups can often outlast more numerous foreign forces when they are fighting on home turf, but in this case I wonder whether an African force numbering as many as 27,000 troops – and outnumbering al Shabab by as much as five to one – could not break the rebels, at least in Mogadishu. The influx Uganda offers could, in other words, change the game in Mogadishu and southern Somalia completely, especially in the short term (in the long term, the TFG’s viability will depend on its ability to build genuine political legitimacy, not just defeat competitors). Of course, al Shabab could have many more fighters than commonly thought, and an influx of Ugandan troops could produce a backlash against the TFG. There are no certainties, especially when you take into account the many “ifs” surrounding the potential Ugandan deployments. Still, it does not appear that al Shabab will receive 20,000 troops in reinforcements any time soon.