Obama Administration officials have long referred to Somali militant faction al-Shabaab as an al-Qaeda affiliated organization, and are presenting new evidence involving a convoluted effort by Osama bin Laden to forge ties with the organization as proof to that effect.
Though bin Laden does not appear to have had any direct ties with al-Shabaab, he was keen to see such ties develop, urging al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni organization which operates as an independent auxilliery to the parent al-Qaeda, to provide training and arms to al-Shabaab.
Though al-Shabaab forces appear to have been more than willing to accept the offers of aid there doesn’t appear to be an operational tie, and are instead falling back on al-Shabaab members’ keen interest in US-born cleric Anwar Awlaki to hint that they “probably” exists.
It isn’t hard to see why officials would want to try to make these connections, with the Obama Administration looking to escalate drone strikes in both Somalia and Yemen. It is also part of a long-standing policy dating back to the Bush-era of trying to equate any militant faction the administration isn’t keen on with al-Qaeda.
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