Challenges to America's counterterrorism strategy in Somalia

Residents carry posters with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as they take part in a parade in support of the Somalia conference in London, along the streets of Somalia's capital Mogadishu May 7, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • The Somali federal government’s sovereignty over the territory recognized as Somalia is far from complete.

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  • Somaliland, which declared its independence in 1991, has been relatively stable and has sought recognition as a separate state.

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  • The defeat of al Shabaab in southern Somalia has galvanized a movement to establish a similar region

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Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab, has suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Somali clan militia forces, internationally-backed African Union peacekeeping troops, and Somali federal government forces. Notably, al Shabaab lost a major stronghold in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo at the end of September 2012. As al Shabaab suffered setbacks, the Somali government made major progress: The United States formally recognized a government of Somalia in January 2013 for the first time since 1991, for example. The government controls the majority of Mogadishu today, whereas it held only a few blocks of the capital city in 2010.

Yet the Somali federal government’s sovereignty over the territory recognized as Somalia is far from complete, and faces significant challenges. Somaliland, which declared its independence in 1991, has been relatively stable and has sought recognition as a separate state. Puntland established a separate government shortly thereafter, but the semi-autonomous region remains nominally part of the federal Somali state. The defeat of al Shabaab in southern Somalia has galvanized a movement to establish a similar region – Jubbaland – that would also be nominally part of a federal state. The initiative did not stem from the federal government, but rather from local warlords, threatening a codification of the form of the warlordism that originally collapsed the Somali state.

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About the Author

 

Katherine
Zimmerman
  • Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst and the al Qaeda and Associated Movements Team Lead for the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. Her work has focused on al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Gulf of Aden region and associated movements in western and northern Africa. She specializes in the Yemen-based group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab. Katherine has testified in front of Congress and briefed Members and congressional staff, as well as members of the defense community. She has written analyses of U.S. national security interests related to the threat from the al Qaeda network for the Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and the Huffington Post, among others. Katherine graduated with distinction from Yale University with a B.A. in Political Science and Modern Middle East Studies.


     


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  • Phone: (202) 828-6023
    Email: katherine.zimmerman@aei.org

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