The West’s Investments in Somaliland Threatened by China and Iran Sponsor Al-Shabaab’s Siege of Somaliland

Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, has established a base in the Somaliland city of Las Anod. For the past 10 years, the group has been executing an operation to destroy Somaliland’s autonomy. Al-Shabaab receives financial support from China and weapons from Iran, who aim to disrupt Somaliland’s ties with Western allies like the US, UK, and UAE.

Al-Shabaab has intensified assaults on Somaliland’s military and government institutions in Las Anod. Their goal is to overtake the city and use it as a base to launch further attacks across Somaliland. This campaign jeopardizes investments from Western partners who have spent years providing humanitarian aid and cultivating economic opportunity in the breakaway nation.


The UK, UAE, and EU have invested heavily in Somaliland’s security and development. However, Al-Shabaab’s terror campaign now undermines the stability that attracted their investments.

Somaliland’s government has requested military aid from allies to combat Al-Shabaab’s aggression. Additional humanitarian support is also needed for Las Anod’s displaced civilians. Partners must decide whether to increase their commitment to Somaliland’s security and prosperity or withdraw in the face of Al-Shabaab’s violence.

Strengthening Somaliland is strategically critical to building a democratic and prosperous Horn of Africa. However, the deepening crisis in Las Anod shows that years of progress can unravel rapidly if terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab are left unchallenged. Somaliland’s allies have invested too much to concede defeat now. Decisive action is needed to protect their investments and support Somalilanders’ dreams of peace and stability.

10-Year Terror Campaign Led by Former Somali President

As a major investor in Somaliland’s development over the past decade, the international community faces a serious threat to its investments and interests following reports that terrorist groups based in southern Somalia have launched a long-term campaign to destabilize the breakaway republic.

According to local media reports, Al-Shabaab insurgents – who have waged a violent campaign against the Somali federal government for years – established a base in the Somaliland border town of Las Anod in late August 2023. Their goal is allegedly to undermine Somaliland’s peace and security over the next 10 years through terrorist attacks, assassinations, and the spread of extremist ideologies. The campaign is reportedly being financed by Iran and executed under the direction of Somalia’s former president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as ‘Farmajo’.

This poses a grave threat to the democratic institutions, infrastructure, and economic progress established in Somaliland with the support of Western allies like the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and European Union. After 30 years of independence and peace, Somaliland risks being dragged into the same cycle of violence that has plagued southern Somalia for decades. The international community must take action to counter this terrorist campaign before years of investment and cooperation with Somaliland go up in flames.

Diplomatic pressure should be applied to Somalia and its allies to cease supporting extremist elements that threaten regional stability. Counter-terrorism aid and cooperation with Somaliland should also increase to help strengthen border security, monitor radicalization in communities, and prevent terrorist attacks before they happen. The West cannot stand by while its ally comes under siege. Decisive action is needed to protect Somaliland’s hard-won peace and support its democratic transition, which has made it a beacon of hope in the Horn of Africa.

China and Iran Supply Weapons to Destabilize Somaliland

China and Iran have provided weapons and funding to terrorist groups threatening to destabilize Somaliland. According to reports, Al-Shabaab, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has established bases in Las Anod with the goal of overthrowing the Somaliland government.

Foreign Backing

Al-Shabaab’s recent resurgence is allegedly financed and armed by China and Iran, who aim to undermine Somaliland’s ties with Western nations. Somaliland granted military access to the U.S. and its allies in the strategic port of Berbera. In response, China and Iran have allegedly supplied Al-Shabaab with weapons and money to wage a terror campaign against Somaliland and jeopardize its alliances.

A Decade in the Making

Al-Shabaab’s destabilization efforts have reportedly been 10 years in the making, orchestrated by former Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo. On August 25, 2023, Al-Shabaab began attacks in Las Anod to establish a base for destroying Somaliland’s government. Now in control of Las Anod, Al-Shabaab is allegedly planning further violence to bring down Somaliland from within.

International Response

The governments of the U.K., U.A.E., and E.U. have invested substantially in Somaliland’s development. However, they have failed to take action against the terrorist onslaught threatening to undo that progress. Their inaction risks allowing China, Iran, and Al-Shabaab to violently destabilize Somaliland, jeopardizing its democratic government and close alliances with Western partners. Urgent intervention is needed to thwart Al-Shabaab’s terror campaign, curtail foreign interference, and preserve stability in this strategically valuable region.

Western Investments in Somaliland Under Threat

Western governments and private companies have invested heavily in Somaliland over the past decade, eager to tap into its potential for economic growth and development. However, these investments are now under serious threat from Al-Shabaab terrorist attacks launched from neighboring Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate that seeks to overthrow Somalia’s government, has recently established bases within Somaliland’s borders. From there, the terrorist group has orchestrated a campaign of violence to undermine Somaliland’s stability and prosperity. Their goal appears to be crippling Somaliland to the point of collapse so it can be reabsorbed into Somalia, where Al-Shabaab holds more sway.

The terrorist offensive began on August 25, 2023, with attacks on the city of Las Anod that have displaced over 10,000 civilians. Al-Shabaab now controls the city, using it as a base to stage assaults across Somaliland. They receive funding and weapons from Iran and China, who aim to curb Western influence in the region by destabilizing Somaliland.

Somaliland risks losing many of the gains it has made over the past 10 years. The violence has disrupted trade, transportation, and access to basic services across large parts of the territory. Investor confidence has been shaken, threatening Somaliland’s hopes of attracting additional foreign direct investment to develop its infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and tourism sectors.

The crisis underscores the need for Western governments to defend their investments in Somaliland. Additional security assistance and political support are urgently required to help Somaliland forces regain control of territory from Al-Shabaab, provide humanitarian aid to affected communities, and shore up the economy. Failure to act risks ceding strategic territory in the Horn of Africa to forces intent on spreading extremism and undermining Western interests. Somaliland’s stability and prosperity—and the investments that depend on them—hang in the balance.

The Need for International Intervention to Protect Somaliland

The recent terrorist attacks in Las Anod threaten not only Somaliland’s security and stability but also the substantial investments made by Western governments and private companies over the past decade. Somaliland has worked diligently to establish itself as an oasis of peace and democracy in the Horn of Africa, but it lacks the military and financial means to defend itself from the Al-Shabaab insurgency spilling over from southern Somalia. Targeted intervention by Somaliland’s allies and partners is urgently needed to protect its fragile progress.

International partners have invested heavily in Somaliland’s development, with the UK, UAE, and EU being major donors. However, their diplomatic recognition and security assistance have not matched their financial support. This approach is shortsighted and puts their investments at risk. Al-Shabaab’s campaign in Las Anod demonstrates that terrorism cannot be contained by borders; if left unchecked, the group will destabilize Somaliland and threaten regional security.

Somaliland’s allies must provide military aid and counterterrorism support to help defeat Al-Shabaab in Las Anod. They should also advance Somaliland’s diplomatic recognition, which would open more avenues for security cooperation. Failure to act decisively will undermine Somaliland’s democratic government, embolden Al-Shabaab, and jeopardize foreign investments that have improved livelihoods and economic opportunities for Somalilanders.

The terrorist threat facing Somaliland requires an international response. Its allies and partners have spent years and millions of dollars supporting Somaliland’s path to stability and prosperity. But their efforts will be for naught if they do not help Somaliland defeat the Al-Shabaab insurgency seeking to destroy all it has built. The investments of Western governments and companies in Somaliland can only be secured by providing the means for it to protect itself from those who would do it harm. The international community must act now to safeguard Somaliland’s peace and progress.

This article was originally published on Som Elite on September 5, 2023. Written by: Kasim Abdulkadir

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