A current method used by Taliban in Afghanistan to gain control of an area deemed of strategic interest to the Taliban leadership operating from safe havens in Pakistan or within Afghanistan is to identify and target villages to subvert. The Taliban have recognized the necessity to operate with the cooperation of local population with the modus operandi being to gain their cooperation through indoctrination (preferred) or coercion (when necessary).
The Islamic Courts took control of Somalia often by persuading village elders to throw in their lot with the Islamists. The Shabaab now often takes villages in a similar manner. I’d be fascinated to know whether the modus operandi of the Shabaab shares the same details as the techniques used by the Taliban, and described by Sexton – identifying nodes of influence, relying on sympathisers in an operation that ties up relatively few of their own fighters.
I suspect there are few officials who know much about how al Shabaab operates but a comparison of techniques would help us understand exactly how much know-how has passed back and forth between Afghanistan and Somalia – a fact often assumed but rarely investigated. And of course it might offer some suggestions on how to counter the threat posed by al Shabaab.