- al Shabaab's leadership and ideology has remained consistent and virulent for many years despite the rise and fall of others
- Reports of al Shabaab's demise have been prematurely reported before
- al Shabaab may dissolve and its Islamist leadership and cadre may simply reform into yet another reincarnation of itself
The anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death last week focused attention briefly on the continued threat posed by al Qaeda. Too much of that attention has been devoted to al Qaeda Central itself-the remnants of bin Laden's organization that continue to reside in Pakistan under the leadership of Ayman al Zawahiri. But the greatest and most imminent threats to the U.S. and its allies come not from that group, which ten years of continuous attacks have severely degraded, but rather from its franchises elsewhere, particularly al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Shabaab in Somalia, which only recently announced its formal merger with al Qaeda. The viability of the threats these groups pose to the U.S. deserves more careful consideration than it has received.
Al Shabaab is of particular concern because of the growing tendency to dismiss it as a significant threat. Discussing the death of Osama bin Laden ahead of the one year anniversary, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan described the merger between al Shabaab and al Qaeda as "a merger between two organizations in decline." The problem is that al Shabaab's leadership and ideology has remained consistent and virulent for many years, despite the rise and fall of particular organizations. Al Shabaab itself may indeed be in decline, although its demise has been reported prematurely before. The danger is that al Shabaab may dissolve and its Islamist leadership and cadre may simply reform into yet another reincarnation of itself while the international community turns its attention elsewhere once again.