It appears Harakat Shabaab Mujhaideen’s (HSM) push north may have finally stalled, for the time being. Two weeks ago I wrote about fighting in Dhuusa Marreeb, where HSM penetrated deep into Ahlu Sunna wal Jamma (ASWJ) controlled territory with the intent of disrupting the ASWJ Abudwaq Conference. ASWJ and TFG forces launched a counter-offensive into Hiraan region last week with the intent of capturing Beledweyn. Both sides are essentially gridlocked at this point, with forces positioned along defensive fronts.
HSM has a weakened position this far north, and is forced to operate alongside Hizb ul Islam (HI) throughout much of Hiraan and Galguduud regions. What I find particularly interesting about an HI/HSM joint force is that these groups fought extensively for control of Somalia’s southern regions. HSM has previously maintained a modus operandi of absorbing or destroying weaker Salafi groups, and to this extent has battled HI for control of much of southern Somalia. On the Sufi side of the war the TFG and ASWJ appear, for the time being, to feel they are operating from a position of strength. Yesterday a TFG military commander ruled out any negotiations with Salafi insurgents. The ground truth is obviously much different; except for minor setbacks, HSM steadily continues to consolidate power and move forward toward capturing the ultimate prize: Mogadishu. As noted by Dr Michael Weinstein, ASWJ (the strongest pro-TFG paramilitary group) consists of only a few sub-clans, while HSM draws recruits from every major clan in Somalia. The steady attrition of ASWJ forces cannot be replenished at the same rate as HSM. If the war continues to progress at the current rate, HSM will essentially bleed out the most capable pro-TFG fighting force.