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Somalia’s Al-Shabaab Down but Far from Out

You....Stop. Enough, we need these people

“You….Stop. Enough, we need these people” erected in-front of the Somali parliament building. Courtesy AMISOM Public Information/Flickr

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group on 27 June 2016.

Somalia’s militant group, Al-Shabaab, has often defied its adversaries’ claims that it is in decline. In recent months, however, the movement has suffered setbacks, including territorial losses, high-ranking commanders killed and defections. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) and its internal, regional and international allies need to be clear-sighted about the reasons for these, and what they can do to stop another Al-Shabaab recovery.

Al-Shabaab’s set-backs – and fewer attacks by the movement during the Ramadan holy Muslim month of fasting than in previous years – are the result of three distinct and unrelated factors. First, an enhanced and largely externally directed and funded campaign including drone strikes has eliminated high-profile leaders and diminished its military capacity. Second, some of Somalia’s new federal units are demonstrating greater military effectiveness, even if they and the government still rely primarily on clan-based militias. Third, the Islamic State (IS) has challenged Al-Shabaab’s greatest internal vulnerability – its ideological cohesion.

Whether the Somali government and its allies can advance their cause will largely depend on greater agreement on priorities and coordination of action – no easy task, given the wide and diverse range of external and internal actors.

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THINK AGAIN: Who Profits from Kenya’s War in Somalia?

Flag of the Kenya Defence Forces.

Flag of the Kenya Defence Forces. Image: Fry1989/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 7 December, 2015.

It has been more than four years since the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) crossed the border into Somalia, and Kenyans are entitled to ask what exactly their troops are still doing there.

The official rationale is no longer entirely convincing. The original purpose of the military intervention was to insulate the country from the conflict in Somalia.

‘Kenya has been and remains an island of peace, and we shall not allow criminals from Somalia, which has been fighting for over two decades, to destabilise our peace,’ said George Saitoti, the internal security minister at the time.

It is debatable whether that aim has been achieved. Although Operation Linda Nchi (‘Protect the Nation’) curtailed the operations of al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for dozens of incidents on Kenyan soil in recent years. This includes the high-profile attacks on Westgate Mall and Garissa University. » More

Reigniting Somalia’s Political Transition: Q&A with Ken Menkhaus

President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Image: AMISOM Public Information Photo Stream/Flickr

This interview was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 25 November, 2015.

Recent pushback against Al-Shabaab extremists and a partial easing of tensions between central and state governments have increased hopes for a stable democratic future in Somalia, as it continues to recover from the civil war of the 1990s and 2000s.

Nonetheless, Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College—an expert on the country’s ongoing political transition—said much work was required to recapture momentum from the 2012 establishment of a new federal government, which brought in new political and security expertise, international support, and financial investment. “Finishing a lot of transitional tasks left from the pre-2012 era is essential if the country is to move forward: to have a constitution; to have full elections,” he told International Peace Institute (IPI) Senior Adviser John Hirsch, at a recent IPI forum on 21st century peacebuilding. “Since then, a number of things have not gone terribly well. We’ve seen a prolonged period of political paralysis in the government, with a lot of in-house fighting,” Dr. Menkhaus said. He said the international community was deeply involved in Somalia, providing development and military aid, as well as applying pressure on the country’s leaders to continue their transitional tasks. This includes pushing for an election on a new head of state and a referendum on a new constitution, which had been expected next year. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. » More

Is Wildlife Trafficking a National Security Threat?

Confiscated illegal animal products at JFK airport. Image: Steve Hildebrand/Wikimedia

This article was originally published on 10 June 2015 by New Security Beat, a blog run by the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

Trafficking of illegal wildlife goods is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in the world. With growing demand in Asia, an industry that was once fed by isolated, small-scale poaching incidents is now run by well-organized, transnational criminal networks, similar to narcotics and guns. The Obama administration labeled wildlife trafficking as a national priority in 2013 and released a National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking in 2014. A detailed implementation plan for the strategy followed this year, identifying key steps and implementing agencies to help end trafficking in the United States and abroad. » More

Killing of al-Shabaab Leader Throws Future of Militant Group into Question

Al Shabaab War Flag. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 19 September, 2014.

On September 1, the leader of the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabaab, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US-led drone strike in an al-Shabaab stronghold in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. The drone strike coincided with an ongoing military offensive launched August 25 by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali government forces in southern and central Somalia, dubbed Operation Indian Ocean. » More