I just read a post by Ibn Siqilli on Harakat al-Shabab & Somali Clans. This is clearly one of the best posts I’ve ever read on Somalia. Ibn Siqilli breaks down group (clan) dynamics, leader competition, the challenge of collaborative jihad, ideological differences, and divergence over national-local objectives versus transnational-jihadi objectives. He also does some good evaluation of information sources; a rare act in most writing I read.
Ibn Siqilli’s post reminded me of a HOA project I co-edited with Dr. Jacob Shapiro. Dr. Shapiro and I co-wrote a section on clan rivalry based on AQ’s early 90′s experience in Somalia. I went back and reviewed the theoretical section, which was skewed by my periodic obsession with labor economics approaches to terror group recruitment. (many have had to suffer through my labor econ chatter, it’s painful!) Here are some sections from this report I thought mirrored Ibn Siqilli’s discussion today:
Although many Somali clan leaders wanted to expel foreign occupiers, their first goal ultimately was always the security of their clan against local competitors. Abu Hafs routinely runs into difficulties building consensus among Somali leaders to focus on foreign occupiers instead of other Somalis. He has to spend scarce resources to create and maintain alliances between the tribes.
the Somali laborers ultimately placed a lower-than-expected value on the
compensation package al-Qa’ida had to offer. The group could not provide benefits sufficient to overcome local loyalties. Although al-Qa’ida was successful in buying their way into a few tribes, the benefits of Salafism in 1993 did not outweigh the cost of tribal exclusion. The primacy of tribalism in Somalia ultimately frustrated al-Qa’ida’s efforts to recruit long term and develop a unified coalition against foreign occupiers. Al-Qa’ida mistook its call for jihad in Afghanistan as a universal motivator for which Muslims in Somalia would join at an equal rate. In 1993 Somalia, this call fell on somewhat deaf ears as survival against local competitors trumped jihad.
I mentioned in a previous post my skepticism of those predicting a unified, dominant Shabab free of internal clan squabbles and fully focused on spreading AQ’s version of jihad throughout HOA. I do imagine some future AQ-HOA/Shabab attacks in East Africa. However, I remain skeptical that Shabab will remain dominant and cohesive for long. I believe internal fractures will ultimately lead Shabab to fight rival local clans more than the ‘far enemy.’