Al Shabaab presently seeks to overthrow the Somali National government, get international attention and also obtain strategic concessions from the Kenyan government. These are the three main tactical objectives of the Somalia-based Sunni-terror organization. Refusal of the Kenyan government to concede to the terror group has led Kenya suffering a string of terror attacks.
Though al Shabaab is not an Islamist nationalist organization, it has sometimes cloaked its terror campaign in nationalistic terms with some of its leaders, ideologues and field commanders referencing their terror campaign as the equivalents of popular armed resistance led by past Nationalistic figures in Somalia. Nonetheless, Al Shabaab core and principal goals remain pan-Islamism and the establishment of the Khilafa.
Their pan-Islamism ideal has prompted al Shabaab to recruit non-Somali Muslims from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the West; with the intent of training them as mujahedeen who would later on spread Jihad across their native countries. Hand in hand with this goal, al Shabaab also seeks to destabilize the regional governments as a prelude to launching a lethal semi-conventional terrorist campaign.
Al Shabaab has cooperated with al Qaeda in establishing Al Muhajiroun, and al Shabaab has gone ahead and even delegated a significant portion of its intelligence activities in Kenya to al Muhajiroun operatives. There are also indications that al Shabaab has surrendered some of its operational plans (with regards to Kenya) to al Muhajiroun. Cases in point are the recent attacks in Garissa where al Muhajiroun operatives utilized Amniyaat intelligence reports to plan and execute their attacks.