Al Shabaab continues to survive largely because of the traditional corruption and popularity of radical solutions for the economic and social damage the corruption inflicts. Religion has long been a popular source of radical and violent solutions that don’t work. After World War II ended in 1945 there came two decades of European colonies becoming independent nations. Most of these new states initially tried democracy but that rapidly collapsed because of the local culture of corruption and for a while socialism in general and communism in particular was favored. But that didn’t change anything as socialism was no cure for the corruption and was an economic disaster when any corruption was involved.
By the 1980s Islamic terrorism became popular in parts of Africa that were completely or largely Moslem. That has not worked either, and despite that was constantly being revived, tried and again discarded every few generations for centuries. Many if not most Somalis agree that Islamic terrorism doesn’t work but still have doubts about democracy. Nevertheless Western nations are willing to finance another attempt at democracy and Somalis have always been opportunists. If nothing else all that foreign aid provides splendid opportunities for personal gain. Thus corruption remains the biggest problem. Poverty, economic backwardness, drought, overpopulation and Islamic terrorism are all results of not causes of the corruption. For example the biggest problem facing Somali security forces is logistics (keeping soldiers and police supplied with working vehicles, weapons and other gear). The logistics problems are a direct result of corruption (most commonly seen in commanders or government officials stealing money and equipment meant for the security forces). No one has come up with a workable solution and that makes it impossible to suppress al Shabaab quickly. This is all about the fact that too many Somalis still see power as a license to steal thus anyone getting control over foreign aid or any government assets will tend to steal some or all of it. Changing that widely held attitude has proved difficult in many parts of the world, but particularly in Africa and according to international surveys of corruption places like Somalia and Afghanistan are rated as the worst of the worst.
A recent example of the corruption problem is the seemingly endless difficulties the government is having with scheduled national elections. These were supposed to have taken place by now but have not because too many of the current politicians regard elections as a threat to their income (from corruption). Some foreign donors correctly see this as a ploy so the interim government can stay in power longer and steal more aid money. This led to threats to halt aid if elections were not held. That worked, sort of, and the electoral process lurches forward, if only to keep the free money coming. Part of the problem is political with many of the clans (tribes) maintaining armed militias and refusing to abide by a “one man, one vote” system. That is, some clans demand more (foreign aid and other resources) than their numbers justify. A compromise had been achieved to accommodate that. Meanwhile al Shabaab insists that any form of democracy is un-Islamic and threatens to kill those who participate.
What keeps a lot of foreign aid in the country is the fear that if abandoned Somalia would turn into a terrorist (and outlaw) haven. This has happened before and not just in Somalia. So it was no surprise that the U.S. now admits that it has been using its armed UAVs to provide surveillance and ground support (using missiles and smart bombs) for key (to the Americans) counter-terror operations carried out by Somali forces. This air support is apparently used for the American “decapitation” (finding and killing key al Shabaab leaders) program. Until 2016 this was mostly done from the air or occasionally American commandos would come in and carry out raids. By early 2016 it was revealed that American Special Forces (and other NATO trainers) had created some Somali commando units deemed effective enough to use on raids that American commandos would normally be required for. There have been many (a dozen or more) of these raids so far this year and they get little publicity unless they capture or kill a very senior Islamic terrorist leader or specialist. Most of these raids do not require any American airstrikes, which is a sign of progress.
September 20, 2016: Al Shabaab posted an audio recording of their spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage on the Internet. The brief speech threatened the 135 clan leaders who will vote in on September 25th to select 275 members of the new parliament. Any clan leader who participated in the voting would face retribution from al Shabaab. The new parliament will select a new president in October.
September 18, 2016: In Mogadishu ab al Shabaab suicide car bomber attacked an army convoy near the Defense Ministry compound and killed a senior general (Mohamed Jimale Goobale) and seven of his bodyguards. Goobale has survived several previous al Shabaab assassination attempts. Al Shabaab kept trying because Goobale was very effective.
September 16, 2016: In the south al Shabaab gunmen, wearing army uniforms and riding in captured army vehicles, attacked the town of Elwak near the Kenyan border. At least 12 attackers and soldiers died. Al Shabaab looted the small army camp but the next day more Somali soldiers arrived and drove the Islamic terrorist gunmen away killing about six of them. This is the third attack on Elwak in the last two months.
September 15, 2016: In central Somalia (Hiran, 300 kilometers north of Mogadishu) al Shabaab gunmen took control of the town of Moqokori after peacekeepers left.
West of Mogadishu soldiers killed Mohamed Hassan, a noted local al Shabaab leader, during operations to drive al Shabaab out of the town of Awdhegle. Hassan was apparently in command of the dozens of active al Shabaab men in and around Awdhegle.
September 11, 2016: In the south, outside the port city of Kismayo, peacekeepers and soldiers found and captured two al Shabaab bomb builders. The two captives were known by reputation (for building many of the al Shabaab bombs used recently in the south) and apparently American intelligence efforts helped to locate the bomb builders.
September 8, 2016: In the south (60 kilometers west of Kismayo) soldiers and peacekeepers drove al Shabaab gunmen from Abdalla Birole, a town the lies astride a key highway.
In northern Kenya, near the Ethiopian border, Somali nomads are accused of kidnapping and murdering four members (three men and a woman) of the local Borana tribe. The Somalis moved into traditional Borana territory during July in search of water and graving land for their animals. Efforts to settle the dispute by negotiation failed and in late August both sides threatened to use force. Now the Kenyan soldiers and police have been called in to prevent this dispute from escalating. This area is frequently the scene of tribal violence because of territorial disputes or accusations of cattle theft. Most of the problems are between Kenyan tribes but lately more Somalis are coming south because of frequent droughts.
September 7, 2016: In central Somalia (Galgudud) al Shabaab gunmen drove Somali troops out of the town of Budbud. The soldiers moved to the nearby town of Moqokori to await reinforcements so they could recapture Budbud.
September 5, 2016: In the south (the Bay region) al Shabaab kidnapped and beheaded two clan leaders they accused of working for the government.
East of Mogadishu (Tortoroow) the U.S. provided two air strikes to help protect a Somali army counter-terrorism operation. The American missiles killed at least four of the Islamic terrorists.
August 30, 2016: In Mogadishu al Shabaab used suicide car bombs to attack two hotels and killed 22 people and wounded over fifty. The two hotel compounds were heavily guarded and used mainly by foreigners and senior government officials. There were also conference facilities in the hotels. These attacks come five days after a similar attack on a heavily guarded beach restaurant that left ten dead. In all these attacks most of the dead and wounded were security personnel.
In central Somalia (Gobanale) the U.S. provided air support for a Somali army counter-terrorism operation, killing two Islamic terrorists.
August 29, 2016: In the south Ibrahim Aden Ibrahim a veteran al Shabaab combat leader accepted the government amnesty and surrendered. Ibrahim had been with al Shabaab since 2007 but since 2014 had become more disillusioned at the internal disputes al Shabaab still suffers from and lack of success.