The resurgence of AL-Shabaab in Somalia: the failure of AMISOM, New tactics and the upcoming elections
On the surface, it might be argued that the Somalia is making significant progress. Piracy, an issue which once plagued the horn of Africa has experienced a massive decline following international Anti-piracy measures such as Operation Enduring Hope. In addition to this GDP, in Somalia has increased to 5.953 Billion Dollars in 2015 according to the World Bank, though it may be noted in country which had the second highest corruption score, GDP per capita was 551 dollars in 2015 suggesting a large income disparity. Furthermore there was hope that following the death of Ahmed Adbi Godane in September 2014 Al-Shabaab was in decline, as American air strikes were proving effective in targeting Al-Shabaab safe havens. Despite how it may appear on the surface however, recent announcements regarding the eventual withdrawal of AMISOM from Somalia after a decade of intervention have led to fears that Somalia's problems may be far from over as an increased Al-Shabaab presence close to Mogadishu and fears over the stability of the government have sparked concerns as to the success to AMISOM.
The recent resurgence of Al-Shabaab has occurred for several reasons for example, Al-Shabaab have been able to exploit the weak nature of the Somalian government as well as using terrorist attacks and fear mongering to manipulate the nations upcoming elections. According to the Fragile States Index for 2016, Somalia is the most volatile nation on Earth, and becoming more fragile still. The index found the country is less stable than it was 10 years ago, when the country was in the middle of a civil war to overthrow the Islamist Union of Islamic Courts. In addition to this, issues of corruption within Somalia's democracy have been noted. For example the upcoming elections, which have been delayed several times due to potential security concerns will now be a limited franchise election as they argue that conflict with Al-Shabaab have prevented them being able to organise a one-person one vote system. Despite this however the UN, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development have all expressed concerns that the delays have allowed intimidation and corruption to occur and that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was voted in on the premise of universal franchise in the last election, has failed to deliver the democratic change needed in order to make Somalia a true democracy by 2020, when the African Union aims to have completely withdrawn troops from Somalia. Despite this however it may be noted that the 2016 elections are far more democratic than that of 2012 in which the just 135 elite clan leaders chose the president. Al-Shabaab have been able to use the election to their advantage as they have been increasing and targeting attacks to Mogadishu as well as the threatening Clan leaders and elders as well as using the distraction of the political election to exploit gaps in local security.
A change in tactics has also been noted in within Al-Shabaab in recent months, as they have began targeting Mogadishu an area they withdrew from in 2011. Prior to this change, Al-Shabaab were situated in Shabelle and Jubba Regions where US drone activity had intensified, killing 150 fighters in Raso in March including senior officials. These attacks have led to an increased presence of Al-Shabaab in and around the capital as it is less likely to be attack by drones. This is further exacerbated by increased a larger artillery and increased ammunition which has been obtained due to the capture of 3 military bases, for example the Kenyan controlled AMISOM base in El Adde, in the Somalian Gedo region which was captured by the Saleh Nabhan brigade in January. In addition to the weapons obtained by the capture of these bases. The weapons obtained in these attack have allowed for Al-Shabaab to carry out more intricate attacks, as well as a new central location, increasing the impact that these attacks have had. This has rather defied the expectation that Al-Shabaab membership and capability would dwindle following the death of leader Ahmed Adbi Godane was killed in a US airstrike in September 2014. The new Emir Ahmad Umar has taken charge of the organisation, using his experience as leader of domestic affairs prior to Godane's death to his advantage, planning smaller scale attacks and making use of increased ammunition in the lead up to the election. A failed election serves to benefit Al-Shabaab for several reason, as disenfranchisement is likely to increase support for extremism within the nation.
In addition to the internal changes within Al-Shabaab, international factors have also played in a role in the resurgence of the terrorist organisation. The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, for example, may be seen as particularly significant as within hours of Ethiopian troops leaving the towns of Halgan, El-Ali and Mahas, in the Hiran region in , Al-Shabaab had claimed the territories. Later on in October a fourth town, Tiyeglow, was taken by Al-Shabaab, once again hours after the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. The reasoning behind the withdrawal of troops is not entirely known however the Ethiopian government has cited a lack of international support within Somalia noting the European Union's decision to cut funding for AMISOM by 20%. Others however argue that the Ethiopia have withdrawn troops from Somalia due to personal security concerns as the nation declared a state of emergency in September 2016 due to anti government protests which have left 500 people dead since September 2015. Despite the withdrawal of troops, Ethiopia still remains a member of AMISOM and has around 4000 troops in Somalia. The issue however goes beyond the reduction of Ethiopia troops, but arguably relations to the broader failure of AMISOM to provide the Somali army with better training so they are more coordinated in order to be able to provide a more effective defence against Al-Shabaab. The issue of a poorly trained and unequipped Somali Army is becoming ever more pressing with the proposed withdrawal of AMISOM troops by 2020, as without the defence of the African Union and international support the country will not be able to effectively defend itself against terrorist and security threats. In addition to the failure to provide a sustainable defence against terrorism in Somalia, coordination is an issue within AMISOM as the mission is has been accused of being uncoordinated and improperly funded, Uganda, AMISOM's largest contingent also announced in June that it was withdrawing troops by December 2017 as it was frustrated by the Somali Army and the behaviour of British and American Advisors according to the BBC. The treat of an Al-Shabaab resurgence could also have international implications as Al-Shabaab pose a threat larger than just within the confines of Somalia's borders, for example within Kenya and the attack on a hotel in Madera on the 25th of October 2016 which killed 12 people. Al-Shabaab has targeted Kenya following the role of Kenyan troops in expelling the IUIC and since 2006 attacks have included the 2013 Westgate siege which killed at least 67 and an attack on Garissa University College in April 2015 which killed 147 people according to the BBC. Al-Shabaab are currently expanding their presence within the nation, attracting not just Somalians within Kenya but also setting up a recruitment network around the port of Mombasa. In addition to the issue of managing AL-Shabaab internationally is increasingly becoming an issue as corrupt KDF officials have been accused by the United Nations of indirectly funding Al-Shabaab as KDF officials profit off the illegal Charcoal industry through informal taxation at borders and checkpoints. In addition to this links to piracy have also been thought to have increase Al-Shabaab's funds as they take shares from ransoms of hijacked ships, and there are concerns that piracy could return due to instability within the region.