Al Shabaab has suffered a series of ill-fortunes alternating between loss of territories and defections besides loss of military resources. Nonetheless, the terror group has proved itself highly resilient and adaptable to the fluid dynamics of the region despite an effective anti-terrorism campaign carried out by AMISOM, KDF and Allied Forces. This raises the question: Whence does al Shabaab get its resilience? The answer it turns out is quite simple: Its human resources and ideological suppleness.
Al Shabaab seeks to survive its current predicament, and its leadership has concluded that for the terror outfit to exist in the long-term; it must professionalize, and become highly versatile in light of the ever-changing military and political dynamics in Somalia and the East African region.
For professionals, al Shabaab has sourced a majority of them from Kenya – including Mohammed Kuno (a former Madrassa principal), Sheikh Mahad Hassan (a University graduate who serves as the group’s chief ideologue), Iman Ali (an Engineering graduate who currently serves as a senior commander in both Al Shabaab and Al Muhajiroun) and Ikrima (another University graduate). Western intelligence agencies have shown that al Shabaab strategies and policies have been formulated largely by these Kenyan professionals (with their nuanced understanding of the political, ethnic and military dynamics of Kenya); and they have also been credited for fortifying the terror group besides bracing HSM for an extended war of attrition through a combination of tactical proficiency and brute savagery – as happened recently in Garissa.
By recruiting well-educated Kenyans, HSM has been able to increase the efficiency of its intelligence and counter-intelligence arms as well as (to some extent) evade detection by intelligence agencies. Moreover, eloquent well-educated Kenyans have also been able to shrewdly espouse the al Qaeda Islamist ideology thereby stalling ISIL advances in the region.
The Islamist ideology has created a strong abstract foundation for the terror group as well as sordidly indoctrinated its rank and file fighters thus making it difficult for intelligence agencies to turn al Shabaab elements into spies. Even some defectors from the terror organization have still been lured by allure of Islamism.