Shabaab leader Ahmad Abdi Godane (a.k.a. Mokhtar Abu Zubayr) released an audio statement on Saturday commemorating Eid al-Adha that was posted on the pro-Shabaab Calamada website. Here I excerpt relevant parts of his statement (in italics), and provide my own commentary.
This eid season comes at a time of major changes and historical events across the world. The first of these is the setback faced by allied infidels who have invaded the Muslim world. This is manifested by their defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic decline in their countries, the collapse of puppet regimes in the Arab world, the Jews feeling more insecure following the fall of the walls surrounding them. The second example of the ongoing changes in the world is the success achieved by the Muslim ummah. The first one is the fall of infidel-allied regimes in the Arab world and the spread of jihad activities in Egypt, India, Syria, Mali and Nigeria.
Two points can be made about this passage. First, as I have pointed out, most prominently in Bin Laden’s Legacy, al Qaeda and other jihadi groups have seen the U.S. economy as its center of gravity, and much of their strategy has been designed to wear down the American economy. (Shabaab is, as of February, an official al Qaeda affiliate.) Thus, it is unsurprising that the first of the setbacks faced by “infidels” that Godane points to is “the economic decline in their countries.” Second, there has been a longstanding debate about the impact of the “Arab Spring” on al Qaeda and other jihadi groups. Early last year, the majority of regional security analysts held that the Arab Spring was devastating for al Qaeda, and jihadism more broadly, by showing that the old dictatorships could be toppled by nonviolent protests and removing the grievances that bred jihadism. (I was publicly skeptical of this position.) But it is becoming clearer that jihadis themselves do not interpret the Arab Spring this way. Godane says that he thinks it has helped jihadi effects because “the Jews” (i.e. Israel) feel “more insecure following the fall of the walls surrounding them” and because “infidel-allied regimes in the Arab world” have fallen, while jihadi activities have spread. Of course, the fact that jihadis perceive the Arab Spring as positive for them doesn’t mean they are right, but it is always a mistake to declare what impact new events will have on an enemy without considering the enemy’s own perceptions.
The first is the infidel invasion of our country. They used all available political, media, intelligence and military resources. Their main aim is to stop the implementation of the sharia. They cannot afford to see our people getting peace and justice through the religion and its sharia. They are also worried about the rise of Islam and see it as a threat to their oppression and injustice through which they control the world. Their other aim is to loot the country’s resources especially oil and minerals. Since the world is facing economic collapse, they see Somalia as a resource reservoir. This has forced them to end the apostate transitional system in the country so that they would legitimize the looting of the nation’s resources through agreements [with the new government]. The apostate leaders have come up with a plan they named “International Cooperation,” a pretext used to loot public funds and the country’s resources so that they could surrender them to the infidels.
Shabaab lost its final stronghold of Kismayo in late September, but the group is not defeated. Instead, it is resorting to insurgent mode (and also continues to administer some areas, as I will discuss momentarily). I am keeping a database of Shabaab attacks, and between the loss of Kismayo and October 15, I count sixteen attacks in Somalia and Kenya that can be attributed to Shabaab and its sympathizers, with around 24 killed and 92 wounded. (I have two caveats. First, obviously the database needs to be updated to reflect attacks that occurred in the past two weeks. Second, the limitations of the Somali press impact the count of those killed and wounded. My estimates are as conservative as the reporting will allow.) The above passage — focusing on the enemy’s desire to prevent the implementation of sharia, hatred of Islam, and intent to exploit Somalia’s resources — gives us a sense of the narrative that Shabaab will use to try to use to convince people to join or support an insurgency against Somalia’s transitional federal government (TFG) and African Union forces in the country (African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM).
Thank God the AMISOM invasion is being defeated and they are not achieving their objectives. The administrations in the Islamic regions are still in place and are fully operational. The Islamic administrations still control the very few towns the enemy has penetrated. The enemy’s hope that once the regional capitals are captured, the Islamic administrations in the country would collapse has backfired.
Shabaab does still administer a number of towns in Somalia. As pro-government forces have advanced, however, Shabaab fighters have generally melted away. In other words, there is no evidence that they are making an effort to hold territory in the face of advancing pro-TFG forces. However, Godane’s statement suggests that Shabaab still sees its administration of these areas as significant, and he argues that its administration is more enduring than the enemy’s penetration of these areas.
It is important to note that one of the historical mistakes made by the enemy is dragging Kenya into the war. They will regret this move for a long time. Their celebration over the capture of Kismayo will be short-lived, God willing.
Godane is arguing that Kenya’s involvement will serve as an irritant that drives people toward the insurgency, similar to how Ethiopia’s invasion in December 2006 helped produce a powerful insurgency. Indeed, Godane concludes with a call to “Somali clans, clerics and traders to make use of this opportunity to fight the enemy.” He says: “History is being written. The true followers and adherents of the sharia are being separated from the ones who follow their whims. Fight the enemy. Victory is from Allah.”