Well, I’ve been waiting for a year to see the outcome of Shabaab’s “Game of Thrones” and today a surprising public fracture emerged on the aljihad.com website. Ibrahim al-Afghani, a once senior leader of al Shabaab, close associate of Ahmed Godane and fellow member of Godane’s Isaaq clan, posted a public and direct call to Ayman al-Zawahiri asking him to intervene in Somalia and remove Godane as leader of al Shabaab.
Ibrahim al-Afghani’s public posting finally discloses the fractures I’ve been discussing for the past year. Omar Hammami, the American public relations arm for Team Robow (maybe should be renamed Task Force Robow/Aweys/Afghani), has provided ten reasons for Afghani’s public denouncement of Godane – a major development in Somalia. These are quotes from Omar’s tweets so if you don’t like the language, complain to Omar on Twitter.
- “Dr. Ayman has to act fast and decisively b4 the jihad is destroyed and enters a deep dark tunnel”
- “2 scholars are being threatened.”
- “Muhajirs are being expelled and misused/mistreated.”
- “Secret jails are off limits to observers.”
- “Scholars and leaders can’t check on claims of torture.”
- “Opportunities to open new outside fronts are purposefully neglected.”
- “The wealth of islam is squandered by the amir.”
- “There is no real shura and all the real actors are kept from benifitting the jihad.”
- “kids w/good intentions are put in charge of op.s that go wrong and have negative fall out, &they are in charge of policing elders”
- “the leader is responsible for the recent defeats and the loss of the previously unprecedented public/tribal support”
Interesting that Omar wrote these tweets in English. Why not Arabic? I’m guessing its to get word out to the West, but the solution he is seeking is not likely to come from the West. I love it that he calls some of the Shabaab members “kids”. Oh wise twenty-something Omar who joined terrorist group that betrayed him. Omar continued immediately after the above posts to assert why everyone should listen to Ibrahim al-Afghani:
Essentially, Omar explains why it must be Afghani and potentially not Robow that engages Zawahiri and brings the injustices of Godane to Zawahiri’s attention. Afghani was a Godane ally at one time, fought in Afghanistan, and comes from the same clan as Godane. Also of note, there were rumors of Afghani once replacing Godane as Emir of Shabaab. See this Critical Threats article for a longer but still short description about Afghani.
“Scenario #1: Godane kills off old AQ members & Robow affiliated foreign fighters”
Also of note are the two forces over the past year that signaled which scenario would prove most accurate:
- Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys who showed movement towards scenario #1 last summer , and
- Ibrahim al-Afghani who showed his hand today.
Here is an update to my crazy Powerpoint chart from last year. I haven’t been tracking Raage so don’t know his status or position. I’ve put “X’s” over the scenarios that no longer make sense from last year and noted the migration of Afghani to the Aweys and Robow side. In yellow is what I anticipate as the coalition against Godane as of today.
Here are some thoughts for today and I’ll have another update in the next day or so:
- What does Task Force Robow-Aweys-Godane want Zawahiri to do? - Usually these things occur behind the scenes but this is a public call to Zawahiri. Omar has suggested that communications with al Qaeda have been going through AQAP and that AQAP has gone cold on them in recent months or communicated intermittently with Godane. This puts Zawahiri in an awkward spot. Zawahiri went for a merger with Shabaab that Bin Laden would not pursue. The main hope for al Qaeda now is in Syria and Somalia is a distraction. If Zawahiri leaves Godane in, he confirms his negligence in not dealing with the Hammami situation the past year and demonstrates his naivety about formally merging with Shabaab in the first place. Dr. Z must be scratching his turbin.
- A public plea at this time isn’t such a brave move - If this public call from Afghani had come last summer, it would have been a brave move. But the Afghani call coming now, after Shabaab has gotten their ass kicked incessantly since the merger, isn’t particularly brave. Shabaab lost its most important city of Kismayo, which Afghani once commanded, and I imagine he and many others have little to command under Godane at this point. Loss of turf has also likely brought folks like Afghani, Hammami, and Robow closer together as they get squeezed into Bay & Bakool. Bottom line: If Shabaab were winning, how Godane governs would not matter.
- Source in Somalia again prove suspect – A year ago, several sources said that Ibrahim al-Afghani was chasing Omar around and trying to kill him in Somalia. This now seems unlikely. Again open sources from Somalia prove not credible. No surprise.
- The revelations of Omar Hammami – A year ago, when Omar Hammami posted his plea video, many thought it was an anomaly amongst Shabaab’s alleged rise after aligning with al Qaeda. However, his persistent presence on Twitter has brought him supporters, probably kept him alive and turned him from goat to glamor jihadi again. However, over the long run, Omar’s postings are a double edged sword for the jihad in Somalia and foreign fighter recruitment globally. If a Westerner is considering joining Shabaab or any AQ affiliate and witnesses the absolute mess that is going on publicly, they must be crazy to join – and unfortunately jihadi foreign fighters usually are crazy.
- Discussions of money - As I have mentioned in previous posts about jihad in Africa, resources and money play an important role and as Omar outlined on Twitter, how money is handed out matters a lot to these guys. While Omar and these Shabaab splinters blanket themselves in ideological cover, underneath they are really concerned about their personal power and control of resources. Jihad in Somalia – “Show me the money!”