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Multinational force makes Somalia a safer place
AMISOM’s U.N. mandate was narrow: provide security for the airport, seaport and presidential palace. No major battles took place, though mortars hit the airport and targeted killings of troops slowly rose. Al-Shabab seemed more interested in fighting the Ethiopian force.
By the time the Ugandans and the Burundians who had joined them began pushing out from their airport base in 2009, al-Shabab had built a vast network of tunnels and trenches through the city to move supplies and hold back AMISOM’s tanks.
The Ugandans and Burundians fought building to building, and the civilian casualties often were blamed on AMISOM.
“There was a point when Mogadishu’s sentiment was shifting against AMISOM,” and the U.S. and its partners decided action was needed, said Mr. Hogendoorn.
‘We broke their back’
Troops readying to deploy to Somalia were trained by U.S. and European advisers in firing and maneuvering, fighting in built-up areas, rules of engagement, and making friends in the Somali culture.
Somali troops increasingly were integrated into operations.
Capt. Henry Obbo credits those soft military skills with winning the mission. “You can see whenever we move, they wave at us. It’s the way we interact with them.”
Most Ugandans are Christian and Somalis are Muslim, Capt. Obbo said, but “we are all Africans. We have Somalis who are citizens in Uganda. My best friend in school was a Somali called Suliman.”
“When they first arrived, we thought that they were an invading force that wanted to colonize Somalia,” said Abshir Mohamed, a Mogadishu resident. “But their actions quickly changed our minds. We saw they didn’t have that intention and are doing an ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”
Another Somali, Muhummed Nor, had mixed feelings. AMISOM troops, he said, freed Mogadishu from constant war, but he lamented the number of civilians killed.
In his view, AMISOM shelled residential areas. Military leaders blame that shelling on al-Shabab.
Bancroft, a U.S. company hired by the State Department, introduced sniper rifles and trained 100 marksmen, reducing the need for mortars that could hit civilians. Training sessions back in Uganda incorporated the lessons being learned in Mogadishu.
“Every day they changed and got better,” said Richard Rouget, a Frenchman who works for Bancroft. “Better discipline, better battlefield control, better logistics.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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