NAIROBI, Kenya (MCT) — With the recent loss of two key transit points, al-Qaida's Somali affiliate, for the first time in years, is facing what military analysts say is the likely end of the group's once-powerful rule over much of Somalia
The future of al-Shabab, as the Qaida affiliate is known, is still difficult to predict, but military analysts say its hold on Kismayo, the port city through which its supplies move and from which it derives much of its financing, is threatened and that the fall of the other transit points has cut off key al-Shabab supply routes to its western and northern fronts.
"The clock is ticking," said a well-informed regional security consultant who's long tracked the battle against al-Shabab and who asked that he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.
"They cut off Shabab from their supply routes. It's a big deal for the organization as a whole."
The most recent blow came Thursday, when Kenyan and allied Somali forces captured the strategic crossroads of Afmadow, about 60 miles north of Kismayo. That followed the Shabab defeat last week at Afgooye, which fell to African Union troops from Ugandan and Burundian pushing west from Somalia's battered capital, Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab once controlled nearly all of southern and central Somalia, but that territory has dwindled steadily in the past year. African Union forces pushed al-Shabab out of Mogadishu last August, then Kenya launched a surprise invasion from the west in October. Ethiopian troops soon followed, pushing south across their own border with Somalia.
Kenya has long indicated that its end objective is to push al-Shabab out of Kismayo, the southern port city that's al-Shabab's most lucrative and important possession.
Military strategists say there's no way to take the city without first capturing Afmadow, a town of 50,000.