September 8, 2014
Pham on Implications of US Airstrikes in Somalia
Besides the risk of fragmentation and internal conflicts tearing al-Shabaab apart, the new leader may also not be able to step into the shoes of his former boss well, said J. Peter Pham, an expert on African security at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
“In extremist groups such as al-Shabaab the elimination of any one person is generally not dispositive; he will simply be replaced sooner or later,” Pham told Al Arabiya News.
However, Godane’s ruthless and “autocratic” six-year rule – according to the testimony of former Godane loyalist and presumed successor Ibrahim al-Afghani, who was then killed a month later by Godane’s elite “Amniyat” internal security service – could prove an exception, said Pham.
Due to Godane’s intolerance for dissent and his wiping out all rivals and internal opposition, the late leader’s “modus operandi” left the group more susceptible than it need be, he said.
“The successor [Umar] his loyalists have scrambled to appoint has neither Godane’s stature as a veteran militant nor some of his rivals’ clan networks,” Pham added.
The new change of leadership presents Somalia’s government with an opportunity to act against the group, having already made overtures toward future actions including amnesty for fighters, Pham said.