HARGEISA, Somaliland — How do you root out a ruthless terror group? How do you anticipate its every move, counter its indoctrination campaigns, occupy its territory and deprive it of the air it breathes?
I was contemplating these questions while standing in the inner courtyard of the Presidential Palace in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, when the man who knew the answers walked up to me and introduced himself.
“I am Ali Waran Ade, the lionkeeper of Somaliland,” he said. Waran Ade received that name because of the lions he owns. He keeps them in his farm by the dry river bed in the east of the city. A few years ago, one escaped and killed a woman at the livestock market in the capital.
Gray-haired and gray-bearded, Waren Ade is a security adviser to Muse Bihi Abdi — the recently elected president of the self-declared independent republic that broke away from Somalia in the early 1990s. But Waren Ade has also served as interior minister under three of Muse’s predecessors.
No one knows better than him the underworld in which the terror group al-Shabab likes to operate. The group has wreaked terrible violence in neighboring Somalia, where it basks in an aura of invincibility that has eluded al-Qaeda and ISIS. The United States-led international contingent in Somalia seems impotent against them. After years of conflict, al-Shabab continues to operate with impunity in Mogadishu, where the government and foreign aid workers work keep to a small cordoned-off area.