The Somali National Army (SNA)
Kenyan soldiers of the African Union Mission in Somalia. The joint Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) with Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces have achieved their goal of taking control of Kismayo, which was Al-Shabaab's last stronghold.
While taking Kismayo represents a huge victory for AMISOM, it does not mean that the threat of Al-Shabaab has been eradicated. There are indications that Al-Shabaab is planning to resort to unconventional warfare methods, including deploying suicide bombers and other guerrilla tactics, to make the area ungovernable.
The people of Kismayo remain concerned that Al-Shabaab has simply blended into the local population. They may be hesitant to show their support for AMISOM, as this may unwittingly court a reprisal from Al-Shabaab, putting their lives at risk. Now, however, the population is still gradually warming to AMISOM's presence. AMISOM also faces the challenge of securing Kismayo, as Al-Shabaab left booby traps and unexploded improvised explosive devices, which are not always easy to identify. The KDF is currently busy removing such devices from the town.
It remains to be seen what Al-Shabaab will do next, but it is probable that it will move on to bigger towns, and start engaging in unconventional warfare. The fact that AMISOM managed to take control of Kismayo with relative ease indicates that Al-Shabaab may be changing its game plan. AMISOM should remain alert and not become complacent because of its 'easy' victory. Al-Shabaab may be mutating, and may soon start engaging in guerrilla-type warfare.
AMISOM's immediate challenge is to keep Kismayo under control, and to win the hearts and minds of the people. However, it is possible that the war in Somalia is taking a new turn and that AMISOM has not even seen the beginning.
After the taking of Kismayo, Al-Shabaab released a video of a French national it had taken hostage three years ago. While it could be using this video to make money off the hostage situation, it is also a message that Al-Shabaab is still a relevant actor in Somalia.
The situation remains fragile and AMISOM has to exercise great care in how it proceeds in ongoing attempts to form a local authority, in order not to exacerbate existing clan tensions. The fact that the KDF was involved in the taking of Kismayo may be used by Al-Shabaab to claim that Somalia has been 'invaded'. If it succeeds in doing this, it may be easier for the group to gain access to more arms. Somalia may yet see another showdown between AMISOM and Al-Shabaab.