Yes, terrorists groups dream about establishing an Islamic State; for it is not only a fantasy but a mission they seek to achieve through endless jihad, The Long War. If the US and its allies understand clearly how terrorists groups like Al Shabaab understand themselves as a part of the self-perceived "infidel" conflict, then there is valid reason to think that analyts and professionals can accurately project their strategic intentions and operational objectives.
Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reported that the Ras Kamboni Camp (Raas Kaambooni), led by Hassan Turki, of Hizbul Islam was absorbed by Al Shabaab . (It comes as no surprise that the information was reported in Sweden from Al Qimmah Forum, as financier Ali Yassin Mohamed reportedly resided in Stockholm. See how the country is experiencing a "little Mogadishu"). The announcement declared two things; that,
(a) Al Shabaab is a part of the international jihad led the the network of Al Qaeda [and]
(b) The Al Shabaab Mujahideen Movement and the mujahideen of Ras Kamboni Camp today merged under one name: Al Shabaab Mujahideen Movement (ASMM).
The two organizations have been fighting one another throughout the ending months of 2009 over the control of the Port of Kismayo in southern Somalia. The successful merger now splits Hizbul Islam, leaving three remaining original members to fight for themselves;
(1) Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS);
(2) Jabhadda Islamiya Somalia, a.k.a. Islamic Front of Somalia (JIS);
(3) Mu'askar Anole;
all of who are connected to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which I mentioned in my analysis on the US/UN Operation Restore Hope.
With a blended unification of ideology, the overarching goal is two-fold: To rid the region of "enemies of their religion," who ASMM believes to be both Ethiopian forces aided by the US, and institute an Islamic State in Somalia. Moreover, it identifies their forthcoming ability to join operational tactics and expand operational environments, both within Somalia and transnationally vis-a-vis supporting campaigns with, for, and by AQCL. Of great concern also is the newly-formed organization's prospective capacity to manipulate regional resources, such as Uganda’s oil reserves or Lake Victoria near-by, and/or utilize geographical avenues for trafficking activities as they have done in the Gulf of Aden.
Despite the internal conflicts between Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam historically, their recent formation testifies to the dangerous, morphing method of expansion by AQ-affiliated terrorist groups in the region. A recent RAND report entitled, "Radical Islam in East Africa 2009," acknowledges this growing trend and the emerging implications, stating;
"East Africa has been a sanctuary and base for Islamist terrorist operations since the early 1990's and remains a priority area in al-Qaeda's global strategy...Although al-Qaeda represents the primary terrorist threat to US interests in East Africa, it is only one component of a much larger universe of radical Islamist groups and organizations in the region. There are numerous indigenous radical Islamist groups in East Africa with varying degrees of affinity to al-Qaeda's agenda. In addition, missionary groups...are actively propagating a radical, fundamentalist, Salafi interpretation of Islam that, while not necessarily violent, function as gateways to terrorism...The weakness of African governments and the internal fighting and corruption of these regimes facilitate the ability of terrorists to move, plan, and organize."
It is a strategic necessity for the US to take aim at middle-tier personalities [while they exist] in order to disrupt and dismantle affiliate operations. History's lesson of the mujahideen throughout Africa and the Arabian Peninsula offers some intriguing evidence of what "dream-like" expansion seems to be on the horizon in terms of the jihadi operational environment.