The report cites the growing internal factionalism within Somalia's Islamist movement that risks plunging the country deeper into violence and with dangerous implications for the wider region. Al-Shabaab's military troubles have been compounded by the steady erosion of its popularity and credibility.
The Crisis Group believes there is a limited opportunity for Somalia's political actors and the international community to take advantage of these divisions and to reach out to the increasing numbers of domestic militants who are disenchanted with the growing influence of foreign jihadis and extremist elements.
Although al-Shabaab and Hizbul-Islam are far from spent forces, the Crisis Groups says this is the time for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its international partners to:
- Pay more attention to, and try to counter-act, the increasingly extremist ideological evolution of the Islamist movement;
- Step up the battle for the hearts and minds of the Somali people by emphasizing that the radicalization is largely driven by a unique set of beliefs that are alien to Somalis and an extremist and literal interpretation of holy texts; and by presenting a strategy to de-radicalize Somalia’s youth;
- Place much greater emphasis on reconciliation by exploiting the divisions within Al-Shabaab and Hizb al-Islam and reaching out to less extreme elements in both organizations