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Somalia: The Power Of Paranoia

Officials in Puntland (north of Somalia) and Kenya (south of Somalia) both report that Islamic terrorists are showing up complaining they are fleeing increased American airstrikes in Somalia. The Kenyan al Shabaab men complained that many of them had been falsely accused of supplying target information for the Americans. This was because the air strikes were suddenly hitting camps long hidden in the Boni forest along the Kenyan border. Several of those camps had housed several hundred al Shabaab men for years. Spies may have been at work but it was also likely that al Shabaab had gotten sloppy about protecting the location of the Boni camps. Or it might have been the fact that the Americans have been doing more surveillance of the Boni forest lately and are known to have pattern analysis software that can sort through a lot of video and find previously unnoticed information. Then there is the possibility of surveillance using new sensors. Yet al Shabaab leaders focused on their Kenyan recruits, which may indicate that Kenyan intelligence is having some success (real or imagined) getting agents into al Shabaab.

The al Shabaab men fleeing to Puntland and Kenya are actually the victims of much increased aerial surveillance (visual and electronic) of al Shabaab operations in Somalia this year. With all that additional information you often don’t need a computer to note things about al Shabaab that were previously unknown or uncertain. Operations against al Shabaab in Puntland, Somalia and Kenya are suddenly more frequent and successful. The paranoia within the al Shabaab leadership is a bonus, and a valuable one. Innocent (of spying) al Shabaab men have been executed by al Shabaab and because of that there are more desertions and fewer new recruits. An additional bonus is that many of the al Shabaab deserters are actually defectors who are joining the growing number of hard core al Shabaab men who joined the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) faction.

Since 2015 ISIL has been trying to take advantage of local (Puntland and Galmudug) clan feuds to establish a presence in Puntland. This began in October 2015 when an al Shabaab faction declared itself the local branch of ISIL. The ISIL members up there were largely former al Shabaab men who wanted more violence or whatever. ISIL was more daring and dangerous than mainstream Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda (which al Shabaab associates with) but is also self-destructive as ISIL considers any other Islamic terror group a potential enemy (if the other group does not recognize ISIL as the leader). Because of this ISIL self-destructive tendency in 2016 al Shabaab again become the most deadly Islamic terror group in Africa. For three years (2014-15) Boko Haram in Nigeria and (after 2013) ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) were killing more people in Africa. But in 2016 Boko Haram was much weaker after a massive counterattack by a coalition of Nigerian troops, local volunteers and soldiers from neighboring countries. By 2017 Boko Haram was killing about one person for every ten al Shabaab murdered in 2016. While the al Shabaab body count is down in 2017 it is still much higher than Boko Haram or ISIL. In 2016 al Shabaab related violence led to about 4,200 deaths compared to 3,500 for Boko Haram and even fewer for ISIL. So in 2017 a lot of the American counter-terror resources long devoted to ISIL have shifted to Somalia. For ISIL being number one comes at a price because it means you have more people out to get you. So while ISIL will gain a few new recruits as al Shabaab comes apart they will not be able to replace higher losses.

Dirty Money

Corruption continues to be the largest problem in Somalia and even infects peacekeepers. For months the UN has been pressuring Kenya to deal with evidence UN investigators compiled (and is common knowledge in the areas inv9lved) that Kenyan peacekeeper commanders in southern Somalia continue to take bribes to allow al Shabaab controlled charcoal production and exporting to Dubai. Since al Shabaab lost control of the southern port of Kismayo in 2014 it has seen its income plummet by more than half. Since then al Shabaab has established other income sources, mainly smuggling in areas it controls, along with extortion and anything else it can get away with. The charcoal operations is worth about $10 million a year to al Shabaab, which comprises about half of the income that currently keeps the al Shabaab going. So far Kenya has been reluctant to crack down, apparently because some prominent Kenyan families are involved. At least that is usually the main reason for ignoring clear evidence of corruption.

December 6, 2017: Some 130 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu several al Shabaab men were killed by a UAV missile attack on a vehicle locals said was used by al Shabaab to transport weapons. So far in 2017 there have been about 32 of these airstrikes in Somalia (including Puntland) against Islamic terrorists, mainly al Shabaab.

December 4, 2017: After years of local and international pressure the Somali government allowed, for the first time since the 1970s, the formation and operation of political parties that were not simply fronts for clan based groups. Some of the current political parties had been quietly violating the old law for years and there was growing pressure to recognize the fact that Somali politics had become mature enough to handle this. On the first day of the new policy seven parties registered.

December 1, 2017: In Hiran (200 kilometers north of Mogadishu) Al Shabaab ambushed a convoy and were driven off by the military escort. Two soldiers and twelve Islamic terrorists were killed.

November 28, 2017: In the southwest (across the border in Kenya) al Shabaab killed two police officers and wounded two others near the coastal town of Lamu. The police were escorting a convoy of six busses carrying civilians (most of them Moslem) who required protection from the frequent al Shabaab robberies oon country roads. In this case the al Shabaab attack failed and the Islamic terrorists withdrew into the bush taking their casualties with them. Since early 2017 an al Shabaab force of up to a hundred gunmen has been attempting to establish a permanent presence near the coast and the Somali border. Some of the al Shabaab men are Kenyans (ethnic Somalis) who were trained in al Shabaab camps across the border in the Boni forest (which is currently under heavy attack).

November 27, 2017: In northeast Somalia (Puntland) an American UAV missile attack against an ISIL target left at least one Islamic terrorist dead.

November 23, 2017: For the first time since 2014 the international anti-piracy patrol arrested six Somali pirates who were caught firing on and trying to board ships off the Somali coast. The accused Somalis were sent them to the Seychelles Islands for prosecution. In 2010 the EU (European Union) made a deal with the tiny (85,000 population) nation of Seychelles (islands, 1,500 kilometers east of Somalia) to prosecute pirates captured by the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia. The European nations that bring in pirates for prosecution agreed to pick up the expenses, as well as imprison convicted pirates back in Europe. First, the Seychelles had to spend half a million dollars, and several months, to build a jail for (up to 40) pirates who were being tried. Seychelles has an economy dependent on fishing and tourists, and doesn’t have much crime so never needed many jail cells. The EU contract, and a small American military presence (to maintain UAVs and other American military aircraft operating from the main Seychelles airport) has helped the local economy as has the near total absence of Somali pirates that had been common in Seychelles coastal waters until 2012. For a while Somali pirates operated off the Seychelles, sometimes attacking local fishing boats, and that hurt the local economy.

November 21, 2017: Some 200 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu over a hundred al Shabaab men were killed by American UAVs using missiles.

November 14, 2017: Some 96 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu American UAVs using missiles killed several al Shabaab gunmen in support of an operation by security forces to clear the Islamic terrorists out of an area.

Source: Strategy page