Somalia has undergone significant political change in 2009/10, but the security situation has remained largely stagnant. The conflict remains a grim example of "hybrid warfare": a combination of conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, as well as indiscriminate violence, coercion, and criminal disorder - compounded in the Somali case by the interference of regional powers. Somalia's frail Transitional Federal Government has struggled ineffectually to contain a complex insurgency that conflates religious extremism, political and financial opportunism, and clan interests. Beneath a superficial ideological overlay, armed opposition groups have essentially degenerated into clan militias, manifesting the same kind of fluid alliances and fissile tendencies. As a result, southern Somalia remains a patchwork of fiefdoms controlled by rival armed groups - a political and security vacuum in which no side is strong enough to impose its will on the others. Meanwhile, the relatively stable northern regions of Puntland and Somaliland have suffered increasing spillover from the conflict to the south in the form of targeted killings and bombings.
The military stalemate is less a reflection of opposition strength than of the weakness of the Transitional Federal Government. Despite infusions of foreign training and assistance, government security forces remain ineffective, disorganized and corrupt - a composite of independent militias loyal to senior government officials and military officers who profit from the business of war and resist their integration under a single command. During the course of the mandate, government forces mounted only one notable offensive and immediately fell back from all the positions they managed to seize. The government owes its survival to the small African Union peace support operation, AMISOM, rather than to its own troops. Clan militias operating under the banner of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a in Galguduud region proved far more effective than the Transitional Federal Government on the battlefield, inflicting serious reverses on Al-Shabaab forces.
Opposition forces, though generally better disciplined, organized and motivated than their government adversaries, lack popular support and are equally susceptible to internal divisions. Hizbul Islam - a coalition of four clan-based militia groups under the leadership of Hassan Dahir Aweys - was founded in February 2009 and had all but disintegrated by the end of the same year. Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (better known as Al-Shabaab) is a sprawling coalition of jihadists, business interests and clan militias, which has suffered serious internal frictions over such issues as the role of foreign fighters, the use of suicide bombers and desirability of political dialogue.
Persistent, low-intensity warfare between these various groups demands a steady flow of arms, ammunition and military or dual-use equipment. These items continue to enter Somalia in violation of the general and complete arms embargo imposed in 1992, at a fairly steady rate. Primary sources of supply remain Yemen and Ethiopia, although contributions to the Transitional Federal Government from the United States, Uganda and other parties have also entered Somali arms markets. Eritrea - once a major sponsor of armed opposition groups - appears to have scaled down its military assistance while continuing to provide political, diplomatic and possibly financial support. There has been little overall change in the types of arms and ammunition entering Somalia, but the Monitoring Group has observed that small numbers of heavy mortars and wire-guided anti-tank weapons are now employed by armed opposition groups.