Shabab Losing Ground in Somalia

Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog posted one of the first updates on Shabab’s dysfunction and possible loss of control in Mogadishu.  I’m uncertain about the exact cause of Shabab’s recent struggles and am waiting for Chris Anzalone to chime in.  However, the famine engulfing Somalia apparently contributed to Shabab’s faltering.  The loss of AQ Operative Fazul, the apprehension of Shabab operatives collaborating with AQAP and drone strikes on Shabab’s leaders likely influenced some internal crumbling as well.
I speculated several months back that Shabab would not be able to maintain a lasting coalition amongst Somali clans.  I once read a book called Somalia: Economy Without A State stressing the importance of economic considerations in Somali society.  Resource constraints drive the clan structures dominating Somalia’s human terrain.  When survival hangs in the balance, garnering of scarce resources will always trump ideological fights against far off enemies.  AQ found this in Somalia during the 1990s and will likely find the same as the famine continues.  The ‘Shifty Sheikh”- Hasan Dahir Aweys– a long-time AQ interlocutor and former AIAI leader, conceded to Shabab’s leadership several months back.  This recent shakeup immediately made me wonder if Aweys is partially behind Shabab’s new fractures.  I’ll wait for the Somalia and Shabab experts to figure this out.
Katherine Zimmerman accurately brought up the challenge of alleviating Somalia’s famine without reinforcing Shabab’s control.  Disseminating food aid through clans will be tough.  As noted by Sahel Blog, the TFG is seen by many Somalis to be more corrupt and oppressive than Shabab.  So what do we do?  We tried famine relief in Somalia before with poor results.  How do we do the right thing for Somalis without reinforcing the ills that plague the region’s governance?  I’m not sure but it seems the famine, despite its awful implications, may provide an opportunity to create a different course in pursuit of stability and governance in Somalia.  I’m interested in anyone’s thoughts on good articles providing implementable policy recommendations that adequately deal with the famine and minimize Shabab’s power.

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