The United States says it supports efforts by the Somali government in facilitating defections – by former and current Al-Shabaab militants – as a means of degrading the potency of the al-Qaeda affiliated insurgent group.
A statement released by the U.S. embassy in Somalia on August 16, 2017, said the U.S. supported all measures aimed at combating Al-Shabaab overtly or otherwise.
The statement titled ‘The United States Commends the Federal Government of Somalia’s Efforts to Promote al-Shabaab Defections,’ read in part:
The United States encourages the Somali government to continue to create pathways for al-Shabaab members to reject terrorism and join efforts to build a peaceful and prosperous country for all Somalis.
“The United States supports a Somali-led process of degrading al-Shabaab’s influence using a comprehensive approach, including through high-level defections, reconciliation, and improved governance and service delivery.
“The United States encourages the Somali government to continue to create pathways for al-Shabaab members to reject terrorism and join efforts to build a peaceful and prosperous country for all Somalis.”
The statement comes in the wake of the high-profile defection of a former deputy leader and spokesperson of the group, Mukhtar Robow Ali Mansur. The U.S. in June 2017 lifted a $5m bounty on his head, years after he split ways with the group.
Robow fell out with al Shabaab in 2013, keeping a low profile in the jungles with his forces until defecting last week. The group launched multiple attacks to try kill or capture him.
The defection could give pro-government forces more freedom to operate in the regions of Bay and Bakool, cutting al Shabaab’s operational territory in two.
Al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab were forced out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. They have also since lost nearly all other territory they previously held after an offensive by Somali government troops and African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeepers.
The group still remains a formidable threat and frequently carries out bombings both in Mogadishu and other towns against both military, African union forces and civilian targets.