The Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen movement (HSM) is steadily declining. A Careful analysis of various comparable, terrorism related situations shed light on how Kenya has done what is required to close out the epoch once dominated by Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen movement (HSM) terrorism. Strategic Intelligence has analysed an array of terrorists functional levels including level of threat posed by the terror group, types of attacks it has conducted in past 4 year, types of weapons, conscription of new members, and methods used to reach those end states by HSM.
The War on Terror by Kenya’s Joint Task Forces (JTF)
The Government of Kenya in 2014 made radical changes in its Intelligence Service leadership, Ministry of Interior, Kenya Defence Forces, and the National Police service. Intelligence led counter terrorism operations have been conducted by teams drawn from the National Intelligence organization, Military Intelligence, and the National Police. These joint task forces have aided the Counter Terrorism Police (ATPU) in neutralizing the threat posed by jihadists effectively. Kenya’s intelligence led counter-terrorism operations include cyber warfare against jihadists, identifying and destroying recruitment and logistics bases, identifying and neutralizing terror cells and their networks, besides developing strategies and frameworks for countering violent extremism. These joint operations have kept terrorists away from Kenyan cities and towns.
In Boni Forest, over 200 members of the Jaysh Ayman have been killed halving the 500 member terror gang. Others have secretly abandoned terrorism and gone back to farm villages in Kwale, Kilifi, and Lamu. The terror outfit is losing its appeal to vulnerable youths. According to returning defectors, the horror of death every time the jihadists attack Kenya Army troops is a constant nightmare. The Kenya Army is everyday alert and aware of where the jihadists will pass or try to attack, the jihadists confess further demoralizing the fighters. Most have watched their friends and village mates die and other left in the bush maimed. Our brothers once injured are eaten by hyenas after they fail to catch up after KDF attacks. “I, Watched 3 of my friends who we joined in 2016 buried alive since they were badly wounded. They were buried alongside the dead in mass graves after we left El-Adde, since they had lost limbs”. No ones to remain in Al-Shabaab anymore and only a handful are coming to Somalia. Al-Shabaab is finished.” Confesses a returnee from Mombasa.
Fugitive Al-Shabaab Leaders, Dwindling Finances, Hundreds of Defector Returning Home, and Demoralized Fighters
Ahmad Iman Ali, a thief and a criminal now a self-proclaimed spiritual leader of Shabaab, once commanded over 860 Al-Shabaab fighters mainly from Kenya, Tanzania, Western Somalia, and a bunch of foreign fighters such as Thomas Evans and Andreas Martin Muller aka Abu Nusaybah is now on the run with only a handful of the remnants of the terrorists. His men have been killed by Kenya Army and Special Operations units along the Kenya Somali border. He has nowhere to run. Al-Shabaab is running out of finances. Kenya CT-Ops Joint Task Forces identified Ahmad Ali and his brigade’s main source of revenue which included Mosques, stalls business in Gikomba and Eastleigh in Nairobi, rental houses, and funding from Somali’s living in Minnesota United States. The JTF has destroyed these terror financing networks thus denying terrorists like Iman Ali and other Al-Shabaab commanders finances to recruit and pay fighters. The death of hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters in Gedo and Juba regions by Kenya Defences Forces (KDF) besides the dismantling of terror cells and their financial networks has forced hundreds others to defect, denounce terrorism, and return home. Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia continue to receive, rehabilitate, and closely monitor defecting jihadists. Fighters left behind in Somalia are becoming frustrated, broke, hungry, and very demoralized. Efforts to leave the terror group have culminated to executions on charges of conspiracy to spy for Kenyan and Western Intelligence services.
Escalation of AMISOM and AFRICOM Counter-Terrorism Operations in Somalia
AMISOM has recalibrated its strategy in Somalia. More resources, troops, equipment, and robust intelligence collection is part of AMISOM strategy to combat insurgents. According to David Goldman, there will be nothing new about Al-Shabaab tactics. They’ll continue trying use of SVBIED and storming tactics against AMISOM troops bases in Somalia. AMISOM troops have however redesigned their strategy to pre-empt the threat posed by the terrorists. The Kolbio attack is evidence of this decline. Hundreds of militants were killed by a few Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops stationed at Kolbio FOB. Kenya lost a dozen soldiers to a series of SVBIED’s used in the attack. Over 167 Al-Shabaab militants were killed during the engagement with the army. Hundreds other were badly injured forcing their commanders to order the militants to run and save themselves. Apart from hastily taken pictures of the slightly burnt Kolbio FOB and a dozen brave but fallen KDF Soldiers, the Al-Shabaab lost the largest number of fighters in a single attack in its history.
AFRICOM at Djibouti has escalated surveillance and reconnaissance in Lower Juba and Gedo regions of Somalia with plans to conduct both airstrikes and commando raids targeting Al-Shabaab bases in these regions. Terrorist commanders are opting withdrawing from theatre and moving to bush and riverine villages in Somalia. Intelligence shows most commanders are opting home villages (where they come from) and friendly clans as ideal grounds. However, AFRICOM has orders to destroy and kill collateral that protects such elements.
With the threat of a resurgent ISIS in Somalia manifesting and over 250 Al-Shabaab fighters defecting to the Islamic States in Somalia, pressure of deadly force by Kenya Counter-Terrorism JTF along the border with Somalia, AMISOM operations, and AFRICOM operations, the Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen movement (HSM) is steadily declining into bush village ragtag militia. Field commanders are opting to drive their fighters to loyal villages in the Somali desert and bush villages to escape AMISOM, Kenya Army, and AFRICOM firepower. In 2017, Al-Shabaab will be degraded significantly if not obliterated from Somalia.