Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals
Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab, is occupying areas vacated by withdrawing Ethiopian forces and regaining its strength in south-central Somalia. Ethiopian troops supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force began redeploying back to Ethiopia in August 2016 as anti-government protests spread across the country. These forces abandoned military bases in strategic locations in Hiraan and Bakool regions after the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on October 9. Al Shabaab militia forces immediately re-occupied key towns such as Halgan, which is along a major road between the capital, Mogadishu, and Beledweyne, a regional capital. AMISOM does not have the manpower to replace the Ethiopian units, and Ethiopian forces are unlikely to return to Somalia any time soon. Local Somali security forces are unlikely to have the strength to prevent al Shabaab’s re-emergence in the area. They may further clash with each other for control of terrain. Al Shabaab will probably continue to recapture positions in southcentral Somalia, positioning itself to gain strength in 2017.