October 11, 2013:
The new Somali government is under a lot of criticism for their failure to crush al Shabaab. The Somali politicians are accused of being distracted by corruption (stealing foreign aid and anything else they can get their hands on) and not paying attention to things like economic development and law enforcement. Somalia is still something of a warlord playground, and the senior politicians consider themselves major players, not statesmen. As happens in many countries where tribal loyalties are strong, the national leaders in Somalia are more loyal to family and clan than to running the country. Again, in a similar pattern, the only loyalty that appeals to everyone is religion. But in practice, Islam (or any other religion) has never been sufficiently respected to get effective performance out of national leaders. Al Shabaab disagrees with this, but religious fanatics are, by definition, operating in a different reality.
Kenya is particularly keen on getting some cooperation from the Somali government in getting over 600,000 Somali refugees out of Kenya. These people fled Somalia in the past decade because of the violence and famine. Most of the refugees live in parts of northern Kenya occupied by Kenyans who are ethnic Somalis but who are also fed up with the additional costs and dangers all those refugees have brought. The presence of so many refugees also provided cover for many Somali criminals and Islamic terrorists (mainly al Shabaab). This led to more crime in the north, as well as in major Kenyan cities which already had ethnic Somali communities and a lot of refugees living there illegally.
The recent failed raid in Somalia to seize an al Shabaab leader represents a change in American tactics. In the past the U.S. monitored al Shabaab but did not play a major role in fighting them because the American “war on terror” concentrates on international terrorists, especially those who seek to make attacks in the West. There are a lot more terrorists who keep their depredations local. But recent leadership changes in al Shabaab has changed all that. Al Shabaab now boasts of being international terrorists. So the United States will now come after them.
October 8, 2013: Police in Kenya’s southern neighbor, Tanzania, revealed that a week ago they arrested 11 Somali men who had set up a rural training camp where they were found with weapons and al Shabaab training materials. The police had received a tip from locals. There are about 30,000 Somali nomads in northern Tanzania, plus a Somali immigrant community of about 10,000 in the urban areas. Some of the younger Somali men in Tanzania are responding to al Shabaab to join the holy war against Western mistreatment of Moslems.
October 5, 2013: A U.S. Navy SEAL commando team sought to seize an al Shabaab leader (Abdukadir Mohamed Abdukadir) living in the coastal town of Barawe but withdrew when they encountered more civilians around the target than anticipated. The SEALs were under orders to minimize civilian casualties. Al Shabaab knows this and tends to surround key leaders with women and children. Al Shabaab declared the failed raid a great victory. Abdukadir is an ethnic Somali from Kenya who was believed to be the planner for the recent attack on a Kenyan shopping mall that left over 60 dead. He was also believed involved in a 1998 attack on two American embassies in East Africa that left hundreds of local civilians dead.
October 3, 2013: On the Somali border Kenya has closed some police bases because they could not reinforce them sufficiently. A new policy mandates that police bases along some parts of the border must have at least 30 police assigned, to ensure that the base can withstand major al Shabaab attacks. As a result of this, at least a dozen police bases and outposts have been temporarily abandoned. When more manpower is available, some or all of the bases will be occupied once more. Some of the abandoned outposts had 10 or fewer policemen assigned.