October 17, 2017
Al Shabaab Area of Operations in Somalia: October 2017
Support Zone: area free of significant enemy action and permits the effective logistics and administrative support of forces.
Attack Zone: area where units conduct offensive maneuvers.
Command Center: location where commanders exercise strategic, operational, and tactical control over their forces.
Likely al Shabaab militants killed over 270 people and injured hundreds more in a massive bombing in Mogadishu on October 14. Al Shabaab has improved its attack capabilities despite ongoing military pressure against it. Increased U.S. airstrikes have not enabled African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces to gain momentum against al Shabaab. U.S. airstrikes have targeted al Shabaab leadership, training camps, command and logistics nodes, and concentrated militant positions. Yet, al Shabaab has neither lost territory nor suffered significant casualties from U.S. operations. Al Qaeda’s Somali affiliate retains strongholds in south-central Somalia and eastern Kenya. It capitalized on Ethiopian troop withdrawals from Hiraan, Bakool, and Galgudud regions in south-central Somalia to regain the control of rural towns. Al Shabaab retained control over existing strongholds in Bay, Middle Jubba, and Lower Shabelle regions in southern Somalia. Al Shabaab’s safe havens support an improvised explosive device (IED) attack campaign intended to destabilize Mogadishu and weaken the Somali Federal Government (SFG). The October 14 attack, the group’s most deadly since its inception in 2006, is part of this campaign. Al Shabaab also pursued a focused campaign in Kenya to recruit and to conduct cross-border attacks in order to heighten tensions between rival parties in Kenya's divisive election. These ongoing attacks undermine the SFG’s legitimacy as it is unable to guarantee security. Al Shabaab is likely to maintain its current operational tempo while seeking opportunities to expand territory in central and southern Somalia in the near term.
 Colin Lahiff, “Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, November 4, 2016, https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/ethiopian-amisom-withdrawals.