Al Shabaab has been around for about a decade now and a lot has been learned about the motivation for Moslem men (often teenagers) from Somalia (mostly), Kenya and other foreign countries who join. It’s mostly about economic opportunities, or lack of them. This is usually because of corruption. In Kenya, where several thousand young men have joined since 2006, there was also resentment at the treatment of the Moslem minority in Kenya. One interesting pattern was the fact that many (over half) of those who join al Shabaab eventually (after a few months or years) quit. Some later rejoin but al Shabaab members find that Islamic terrorist organization can also be corrupt and inefficient and become disillusioned. A major attraction is regular pay (up to several hundred dollars a month) which is offered knowing it is a major draw. But al Shabaab often ran into financial difficulties and could not pay many of their men for months at a time. At that point many quit and often did so with the permission of their leaders. Al Shabaab had learned that deserters were more likely to inform on the Islamic terrorist group while allowing departure (and often helping the former followers get home) made the former members less likely to talk. This is in sharp contrast with ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant), which threatens execution of those caught trying to desert. By 2010 al Shabaab was also having problems with factional disputes and this also caused a lot of members to quit. Al Shabaab leaders had to pay attention to morale because members leaving, with or without permission, was the single most common source of losses. The Somali security forces suffer from the same problems because of corruption and desertion. Meanwhile a growing number of dissatisfied al Shabaab members are responding to ISIL recruiting efforts and joining with other dissident al Shabaab men to create several small ISIL groups in Somalia. Al Shabaab has declared those who join ISIL to be traitors and seeks to kill them. So far this year ISIL in Somalia has spent an increasing amount of time and effort fighting al Shabaab. This has helped the security forces and peacekeepers but they don’t like to publicize this.
The Somali pirates are still in business but have changed tactics. There are still pirate attacks but now they are mostly against fishing ships and small coastal ships carrying passengers and cargo. The ransoms are a lot smaller but the cargoes are sometimes worth some money. The foreign fishing ships are often operating illegally in Somali waters and for this reason the anti-piracy patrol does not put a lot of effort into protecting these illegal fishing vessels. The piracy business has changed a lot since 2010, when it reached levels of activity not seen in over a century. But over the next three years attacks on ships declined 95 percent from the 2010 peak. It’s been over three years since the Somali pirates captured a large commercial ship (May 2012). The rapid collapse of the Somali pirates since 2010 was no accident. It was all a matter of organization, international cooperation and innovation. It all began back in 2009 when 80 seafaring nations formed (with the help of a UN resolution) the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The most visible aspect of the Contact Group was the organization of an anti-piracy patrol off the Somali coast. This came to consist of over two dozen warships and several dozen manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as support from space satellites and major intelligence and police agencies. Despite all this there are still pirates who are active along the coast.
The Somali government is still crippled by corruption and that is so bad that even aid for starving Somalis is difficult to distribute. International surveys show Somalia as the most corrupt country on the planet. Many foreigners who have worked in Somalia agree that the best example of a failed state has long been Somalia. In part that's because the concept of the "nation of Somalia" is a very recent (the 1960s) development. It never caught on. Same could be said for the Palestinians. Sudan is accused of being a failed state, but it isn't in the same league with Somalia. Sudan has had central government of sorts, on and off, for thousands of years. Not so Somalia. Another common problem in failed states is a large number of ethnic groups. This is a common curse throughout Africa, which is why the majority of the worst failed states are there. Europe, and much of Asia, have managed to get past tribalism, although that has not always resulted in a civil society. Tribalism has kept most African and many Arab nations from making much economic progress. The top failed states tend to be African, Moslem or both. Somalia is unique in that it is one of those rare African nations that is not ethnically diverse. Instead, Somalia suffers from clan animosities and severe warlordism.
November 23, 2015: In the south, just across the border in Kenya, an al Shabaab roadside bomb wounded three Kenyan soldiers.
November 22, 2015: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region) an American UAV missile strike killed five al Shabaab men. In the south (Middle Jubba) al Shabaab ambushed a vehicle carrying the leader of a breakaway ISIL faction and killed him. This is the third known armed clash between al Shabaab and its ISIL factions (which wants all al Shabaab men to support ISIL). The al Shabaab forces in the north (Puntland) also have an ISIL faction that is threatening violence against al Shabaab and everyone else up there.
November 16, 2015: Outside Mogadishu refugees lining up to obtain food cards became unruly and the violence escalated. Soldiers used force (including gunfire) to restore order. This left at least seven dead.
November 14, 2015: In the south (Kismayo) al Shabaab attacked a base used by a local militia. The attack was repulsed but nine militiamen and six Islamic terrorists were killed. In the north (Puntland) clan militias clashed leaving three dead.
November 12, 2015: There are more documented accusations that Kenyan peacekeepers in the Somali port of Kismayo are working with al Shabaab backed sugar smugglers. This provides bribes to some officers and soldiers. This illegal trade provides over $13 million a year for the Kenyan troops and Islamic terrorists. For the troops this is considered a form of “hazardous duty pay.” The Kenyan government is notoriously corrupt and will often overlook corruption by officers and troops, especially for those serving in combat zones. In October a UN investigation made similar accusations and nothing happened.
November 11, 2015: The United States announced $27 million in rewards for information leading to the capture or killing of six senior al Shabaab leaders. This includes $6 million for the supreme leader. Earlier in 2015 the Somali government announced rewards for information leading to the capture or death of eleven al Shabaab leaders. The bounties range from $100,000 to $250,000 and the government said it would keep the names of informants secret. Given the corruption in Somalia, there is some doubt that such secrecy will not also be for sale. At the same time the Kenyan government offered a bounty of $217,000 for the al Shabaab leader believed responsible for the April 2nd university massacre that left 148 dead. The American rewards program has been in operation since 1984 and so far has paid out $125 million to over 80 informants. These rewards were often accompanied by relocation of the informant and family to a safer locations (sometimes the United States).