Monday, October 11, 2010

"Americans among insurgent leaders in Somalia"

I'm quoted extensively in Sean D. Naylor's Army Times story. Here's the lede:
Americans occupy senior leadership positions in al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group waging a brutal war in Somalia, according to U.S. Africa Command’s top intelligence officer.

Somalia, which has been without an effective central government for almost 20 years, is “perhaps the ultimate safe haven for Islamic extremists” and “must be a strategic concern for the United States,” said Terrance Ford, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence and knowledge development.

His concern was echoed by Ambassador David Shinn, former State Department director of East Africa and Horn of Africa affairs. Speaking of al-Shabaab, Shinn said: “Its appearance and its organization and the way its leadership is functioning is looking more and more like the Taliban looked back in the 1990s.”

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to Ambassador Shinn and Mr Ford for there comments in Naylors Army Times article, well done.

    "The AFRICOM official noted that the influx of foreign fighters into Somalia runs counter to that country’s “traditionally clan-first culture and the more moderate form of Islam historically practiced there.” In addition, he said, “Reporting also indicates that most Somalis are rather xenophobic and a prime motivator in recent fighting has been the desire to rid Somalia of any foreign influence — witness the recent Ethiopian operations which [were] opposed by virtually all elements of Somali society.”

    “Given that reality, why would several hundred foreign fighters be drawn to a conflict in which their presence, assuming that they’re not ethnic Somalis, would be anathema to the very people that they are there to assist?” Ford asked rhetorically. “One might speculate that some — certainly not all — must be drawn to the pan-Islamic extremist ideology of al-Qaida, and a desire to capitalize on a local insurgency and co-opt its leadership to further global AQ goals.

    1. Guessing or speculation by foreign government "experts & officials" in Somalia has always been one the biggest problems in applying any kind of an effective policy towards Somalia. Not many people outside Somalia can really understand the underlying societal, Clan Sub inter - Clan relationships in regards to more than just Politics, Militias, drug & crime economy, history, Warlords etc etc. It is a very, very complex interwoven web that cannot be easily deciphered or understood. Understanding how Shabab would use such a huge propaganda tool such at the local level, as a "Christian" Ethiopian invasion to their advantage was a faux paux that even the most basic of Somalia Analysis`ts should have recognized. I believe that was a different Ambassador that was snookered into this belief and not yourself.

    Employing a network of saturated area stringers backed up by educated local area experts in a detailed physical assessment in each area is the best way to address the understanding issues at hand, and back this up with an extended program to a continuous feed of information.

    2. Understanding why foreign jihadist`s are easily drawn to Somalia for jihad and per their xenophobic nature is not really that difficult to understand. a. Many Somalis speak English so communication between command groups is simple. b. Its easy to transit Somalia. c. Somalis are more than willing to accept anything they see as benefiting them ( as long as it is pro-Islamic), this extends to Insurgent and Terror groups, d. Foreigners bring a lot of substance, weight in the Intl or Pan Jihadist circle and lends legitimacy & credibility to them in some ways. e. Brings even more possible funding, supporters and believers into their circle with the foreigners on board and ups their chances of international recruitment which they crave. f. Many foreigners are much more educated not only on an intellectual but Islamic basis also and provide training in many ways to them, linking them more with the outside world.

    The khat trade is a good example of this anathematized approach. Though this drug is hated and despised by the minority upper echelon Whahabist in Shabab as un-Islamic, and have made its use illegal, it is still tolerated by letting it flow into Somalia on a daily basis as it serves a few differing purposes for Shabab to do so, mainly to keep folks calm and under their initial control. Now that Shabab is starting to feel more in control in their areas, we now see they have closed the KM 50 Airport and are denying the 7 daily khat flights of using the airfield for furthering its distribution.