Adan is the deputy leader of al-Shabaab. He spent several years as al-Shabaab’s military chief after previously heading the Jabhat, al-Shabaab’s military wing.
In January 2018, the Department of State designated Abukar Ali Adan as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 which imposes strict sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. He is also listed under UN sanctions pursuant to UN resolution 1844 (2008) for engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia and peacekeepers. In addition, Adan is associated with al-Qaida affiliates, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.