Al Shabaab’s Adaptive Model

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In mid-October, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea published its latest report confirming that despite years of effort and the recent territorial gains that AMISOM (the African Union’s mission in Somalia) and the Somali government have made against al-Shabaab, the group continues to garner the finances it needs to remain militarily active and function as a quasi-government in the areas of Somalia that it controls.

Al-Shabaab first came to prominence in 2006 when it led a nationalist struggle against the invading Ethiopian army following the collapse of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union government. After Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia in 2009, al-Shabaab began to adopt a far more extremist ideology, pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden and mirroring the language of al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab began promoting Somalia as a jihad destination where the ‘far enemy’ of the U.S. and regional governments, as well as the ‘near enemy’ in the form of the ‘apostate’ local government, could be battled in the name of Islam. Throughout this time, sustainable finance keyed the survival of al-Shabaab.

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