Update and Assessment: November 2, 2016

November 2, 2016

Key Takeaways:

  1. Al Shabaab is conducting a campaign to seize strategic positions vacated by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in central and southern Somalia. Ethiopian AMISOM forces are withdrawing from Somalia. The forces are probably re-deploying inside Ethiopia to quell spreading anti-government protests by the Oromo and Amhara people. The Tigray minority dominates the Ethiopian government. Al Shabaab’s recapture of key towns is a setback for AMISOM and Somali forces allied against the group and sets conditions for al Shabaab to resurge in central Somalia.
  2. The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) may be developing a relationship with a militant group in the Sahel, signaling ISIS’s intent to continue expanding in Africa. A pro-ISIS media outlet disseminated a pledge of bayat (allegiance) from a former al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militant leader, Abu Walid al Sahrawi, to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on October 30. Al Sahrawi had first pledged bayat to al Baghdadi in 2015 but recently claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Niger and Burkina Faso that may have earned recognition from the ISIS network. ISIS will continue to expand in Africa despite the loss of its regional hub in Sirte, Libya. [Read about ISIS’s strategic objectives in Libya in “ISIS’s Courses of Action – Out of Sirte”]
  3. The combatants in Yemen’s civil war remain focused on military objectives in order to improve their negotiating positions for a political resolution to the conflict. Both President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and the al Houthi-Saleh alliance rejected a UN-proposed peace plan after alleging that it favored their rivals. The Hadi government and its backer, the Saudi-led coalition, continued efforts to advance on key frontlines and degrade al Houthi-Saleh leadership and military capabilities. Al Houthi-Saleh forces fired a ballistic missile toward Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on October 28. [Read CTP’s most recent work on Yemen's frontlines. Keep up to date with the daily Gulf of Aden Security Review and in-depth Yemen Crisis Situation Reports.]