Somalia’s brutal and anarchic recent history often seems to be an impenetrable quagmire of shifting alliances and ill-advised foreign interventions. However, it is critical for international actors engaging with issues on the Horn to understand who is fighting whom and why, a task that is intimately tied to a familiarity with Somalia’s history.
A useful article from IRIN today does a good job of providing historical context and laying out Somalia’s key players. Importantly, the piece discussed in detail the alliance of militias that make up the forces of Sheik Sharif Ahmed’s frail Transitional Federal Government, or TFG, noting that these groups are in no way a unified force. Instead, “these disparate groups have weak central command and control, despite the government’s efforts, so are rarely able to carry out a coordinated attack.” The article also calls attention to recent action from Sufi clerics against al-Shabaab, an important but little understood development.