Islamic State Somalia Province (ISS): An Assessment

Islamic State Somalia Province (ISS) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in October 2015 and was formally recognized in December 2017. However, it has struggled to expand significantly due to sustained pressure from Somali security forces along with US support. While ISS remains to be one of the weaker African branches, it is strengthened through IS central propaganda and local grievances. In February, the ISS claimed to have expanded its control over northern Somalia’s Al Miskaad Mountains throughout 2023 weakening al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab. This territorial gain enhances ISS’s capability to support global Islamic State activities, including funding attacks through the ISKP. Its growth in the region also increases attraction to foreign fighters from neighbouring countries. Additionally, this growth also poses regional security threats. Somali security forces along with the US continue efforts to degrade ISS, however recent advances highlight a need for sustained counterterrorism efforts. 

Key Judgment 1. It is unlikely that the current progress made by the ISS will prevent al-Shabaab from recovering and challenging its control. 

Key Judgment 2. It is highly likely that sustained targeted US and Somali special forces attacks will fracture ISS’s operation and financial sectors. 

Key Judgment 3. It is likely that the expansion of ISS in northern Somalia will intensify competition between ISS and al-Shabaab, leading to increased violence and instability in the region. 

Key Judgments  

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