Precipitating the Decline of Al-Shabaab: A Case Study in Leadership Decapitation - Killing Emir Ahmed Godane, al-Qaeda, Terror Threat, Guerrilla Warfare, Amniyat Role in Organizational Resilience
The tactic of leadership decapitation, using military action to capture or kill terrorist leadership, is a key component of United States counterterrorism strategy. Policymakers argue that eliminating terrorist leadership is an effective way to disrupt, and, ultimately, destroy terrorist organizations. More
This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. The tactic of leadership decapitation, using military action to capture or kill terrorist leadership, is a key component of United States counterterrorism strategy. Policymakers argue that eliminating terrorist leadership is an effective way to disrupt, and, ultimately, destroy terrorist organizations. Since 2001, hundreds of terrorist leaders have been captured or killed by U.S. counterterrorism operations. In spite of this, the spread of violent, radical jihadist groups like Al-Shabaab has expanded and grown in strength. This study analyzes the United States' approach of leadership targeting toward Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and asks the research question: Under what conditions are leadership decapitation effective in degrading the terrorist group Al-Shabaab? This study finds that leadership decapitation operations have a limited effect in disrupting and preventing future acts of terrorism. It argues for a more analytical approach to leadership decapitation in order to improve its effectiveness. This study argues for leadership targeting principles that are likely to be effective counterterrorism strategies and lead to the long-term decline of the group, including basing targeting decisions on understanding the group' s internal dynamics, integrating decapitation operations into comprehensive counterterrorism strategies, and capitalizing on existing leadership divisions, which can be as effective as lethal military action.
On September 5, 2014, the United States military officially confirmed the death of Ahmed Godane, Al-Shabaab's Emir since 2008, remarking that, "removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to Al-Shabaab."1 Decapitating Al-Shabaab's co-founder removed a charismatic yet divisive leader that recently merged the group with Al-Qaeda.2 Godane's elimination left the group exposed and vulnerable to fracture, leaving some analysts guessing if the most recent leadership strike signaled the death knell of the pressured group. According to analyst Tres Thomas, "given the divisive and dictatorial nature of Godane's leadership ... his death would result in an increasing number of defectors and bring the inevitable break-up of the group."3 However, more than a year after the decapitation strike little has changed. Godane's successor, Abu Ubaidah, has reaffirmed his allegiance to Al-Qaeda; Al-Shabaab carried out a brutal attack on Kenyan Students at Garissa University College killing 147 students4 and continues to conduct devastating raids on African Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers.5 Godane's removal is a paradox of leadership targeting. During his tenure, Al-Shabaab reached the height of its territorial, administrative, economic, and military power. It was also under his leadership, however, that Al-Shabaab fell into decline, losing great swaths of territory, key sources of income, and purging Al-Shabaab's most experienced leadership. The death of Ahmed Godane typifies the leadership targeting campaign against Al-Shabaab—the United States has dealt devastating blows to Al-Shabaab's leadership, but nothing proved decisive enough to defeat the group. It is also wrought with uncertainty, with no clear answers as to who would succeed Godane, or whether Al-Shabaab would respond the way many analysts have predicted, with a splintering of the group. Moreover, would Godane's death contribute to the decisive factor in leadership decapitation—organizational decline of the group?
Available ebook formats: