Top of the Morning: Kenyan Troops Route Al Shabaab; Sudan and South Sudan Sign Accord; Bibi’s Cartoon Bomb

Top stories from DAWNS Digest. 

Kenyan Troops Reportedly Route Al Shabaab from its Last Somali Stronghold

The city of Kismayo, long under control of Al Shabaab militias, has been taken over by Kenyan troops. “Initial reports indicated there had been no heavy fighting. For the past several weeks, Kenyan fighter jets and naval ships have been pounding Kismayu, steadily taking out Shabab positions and preparing the ground for a final assault. According to residents in the town, one of Somalia’s biggest, Shabab fighters had been quietly fleeing, avoiding a showdown with the much better armed Kenyan military. A Shabab-maintained Twitter account, however, said Shabab fighters are still in Kismayu. “KDF cowards attempt to attack Kismayu from the sea but the courageous mujahedeen thwart their attempts,” said a message late Friday morning. “Kismayu remains firmly in the hands of the mujahedeen, stay tuned for updates.” Kenya’s involvement in Somalia is the most aggressive step it has ever taken against another country. Publicly, Kenyan officials said they needed to invade Somalia to protect their borders and the first troops rolled in last year. Privately, they acknowledged that Somalia’s relentless chaos was hindering Kenya’s fast-growing economy, and control of the coastline would allow Kenya to move ahead with an ambitious plan to build a new port on the Indian Ocean, not far from the Somali border. It was not clear what is going to happen next. Kismayu has been a complicated place to rule, with several major clans competing for influence and significant port fees to fight over. Also, though the Shabab seem to have formally withdrawn from the town, they have vowed to go underground and use insurgent tactics to fight their enemies.”  (NYT

Sudan and South Sudan Sign Economic and Political Accord

Still, most analysts seem to think that this agreement will have very little effect on the ground. “On Thursday, Mr. Bashir and Mr. Kiir emerged to announce that they would demilitarize the border — a step that had been agreed to in principle last year but was almost instantly violated when Sudan began a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Nuba Mountains, near the border. The two sides also committed to resuming cross-border trade and allowing citizens from each side to move freely. And they agreed to resume oil production — again, an issue that had been previously covered, with a deal reached in August, but had not yet taken effect because of mutual mistrust. “This basically kicks the can down the road,” said EJ Hogendoorn, the Horn of Africa director for the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention organization. ‘Oil production will give both governments some breathing room, since their economies were collapsing, but unless there is a resolution to Abyei’  and other conflict-ridden parts of Sudan, he said in an e-mail, ‘enormous frictions remain.’ One person close to the talks tried to put a positive gloss on them, saying the negotiating session was a “crunch summit” and the border deal was “serious progress.” But most analysts disagree.” (NYT

Benjamin Netanyahu’s UN Speech: Red Lines and a Cartoon Bomb

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a stirring address to the UN General Assembly warning about the dangers of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and obliquely calling on President Obama to set a firm ‘redline’ on the nuclear program. Alas, his argument may have been undermined by the cartoonish prop he brought along. “Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly that unless stopped by the international community, Iran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon by next summer. He did not threaten to attack Iran, and he said that the United States and Israel are pursuing a united effort to stop the Islamic Republic from developing a weapon. Near the end of his speech, Netanyahu held up a placard showing a cartoon-like bomb that divided Iran’s efforts into three stages. He said that Iran has completed the first stage, developing sufficient low-enriched uranium, and that it is nearing completion of the second stage, the further enrichment of the uranium to weapons grade. He said that stage could be completed as soon as next summer and that the third stage, preparing an actual weapon, could then be accomplished within “a few months, possibly a few weeks. He said the effort to build a detonator for the highly enriched uranium would be relatively simple and easily concealed. Drawing a bright red line across the picture with a marker, he said that Iran must be stopped before it completes the second stage. ‘I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down,’ Netanyahu said in the 30-minute address.” (WaPo