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In one striking announcement the leaders of Al-Shabaab trapped their direction with global terrorism, with no plausible exit and an absurdly over determined explanation of how they got there in the first place.

Al-Qaida and Al-Shabaab

What is now referred to as the unity of Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaida is old enough to have been mistaken by policy makers as a new development. It is true that Al-Qaeda announced this month, quite strangely, that Al Shabaab joined its ranks. The story goes as follows: Mukhtar Abu al Zubayr (a.k.a. Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed or Godane), the emir and cofounder of Shabaab, pledged his organization's allegiance to Al Qaeda, and Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of Al Qaeda, accepted. Zawahiri's announcement just formalizes what everyone already knew: Al Shabaab, at least its top leadership, is an affiliate of Al Qaeda. But the announcement is hardly surprising. Al Qaeda and Shabaab have long been closely linked. And Shabaab's leaders have repeatedly proclaimed their allegiance to Al Qaeda.

It is of utmost importance, if the formal declaration of unity is to have any meaning, that it coincides with the downward spiral of both organizations. It is impossible to conduct a serious discussion on this subject without chiseling out the developing story within both organizations. It is a story of failure; not strength or strategic depth. The announcement also came at a time when almost all of top Al-Qaida East Africa operatives have been decimated by missile attacks. Many of those killed were wearing double hats as Shabaab and Al-Qaida commanders. The agreement reflects the following:

•    The acute financial problems of Al-Shabaab due to loss of revenue over the last months. This is linked to the military defeats the insurgent group suffered recently in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab has lost control over the Bakaraa market. The group is also under immense pressure to make use of the lucrative Kismayo port. Hardline Al-Shabaab leadership is desperately looking for resources that it hopes to get from Al-Qaida and its individual supporters in the Arab world.


•    The divisions within the top Al-Shabaab leadership and the increasing tendency of moderate and nationalist forces to explore the possibility of negotiations with the TFG. In a way, the official announcement of a deal at this point in time is preemptive in nature aimed at silencing those trying to challenge the authority and direction of Abdi Godane or Abu Zubeyr. However, it is argued that the division will become even more intense.

•    Al-Qaida’s quest for relevance at the time of its perennial decline. Al-Zawahiri's statement, however, represents a continuation of the central leadership's inability to do more than issue taped statements from its Pakistani hideouts, much less engage in a serious relationship and strategic planning. The move appears largely a propaganda gambit by an Al Qaeda leadership disoriented by the revolt in the Arab world, weakened by drone strikes and a failure to carry out a major successful attack in the West since 2005. So far the jihadist network's efforts to influence the popular uprisings have failed and they have remained a marginal player in the Arab world.  By addressing Al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda hopes to tap into the Somali Islamist insurgency, a movement in which it played little to no part. It would appear that announcing a merger with, after all, the strongest and toughest Islamist military force in the world elevates the moral and political status of Al-Qaida leadership.

In one striking announcement the leaders of Al-Shabaab trapped their direction with global terrorism, with no plausible exit and an absurdly over determined explanation of how they got there in the first place.






Last Updated on Saturday, 25 February 2012 20:04
 

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