19 May 2007 04:15


  • [SW Country] (International Crisis Group- Brussels ) Countering Terrorism in a Failed State  :Posted on 25 May 2002

 Countering Terrorism in a Failed State


Story Filed: Thursday, May 23, 2002 7:07 PM EST

Brussels, May 22, 2002 (International Crisis Group/All
Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Somalia is one of
the world's chief examples of a failed state - a
frequently lawless land of chronic, criminally
opportunistic, conflict. There is no functioning,
nationally-recognised central government. Somalia is
unable to control its borders or police its financial
sector and has in the past been a safe haven for
al-Qaeda. Its highly fragmented internal security
situation and the competing agendas of its neighbours
have raised concerns that it may again become a base
for international terrorism.

A new report by the International Crisis Group,
Somalia: Countering Terrorism in a Failed State, a
copy of which is attached, says that the instability
and power vacuum created by the collapse of the state
pose the greatest danger to the outside world and to
Somalia itself.

ICG Africa Program Co-Director John Prendergast said:
"Somalia has largely been forgotten since the last UN
peacekeepers pulled out in 1995, and current peace
initiatives have run out of steam. The recent
escalation in fighting between competing factions
backed by regional benefactors threatens the little
local progress made on economic recovery and the rule
of law. Renewed engagement, especially by the EU, U.S.
and UN, working closely with the key regional actors,
is urgently needed to bring internal peace and state
reconstruction. This is the only way to realise
long-term counter-terrorism objectives".

The report provides a detailed assessment of the
current political dynamics, the roles of neighbouring
states, especially Egypt and Ethiopia, and the risks
to Kenya from Somalia's instability. It also assesses
the influence of the most problematic Islamist
organisation, the indigenous al-Itihaad al-Islami,
which aims to establish an Islamic state. The report
notes that al-Itihaad has had links with international
terrorist organisations in the past, including
al-Qaeda, and the possibility of continued or renewed
ties should be closely monitored.

John Prendergast said: "The policy objective should,
however, be wider than counter-terrorism. Diplomatic
efforts should aim to defuse immediate tensions both
inside Somalia and among competing regional states
that threaten to plunge Somalia into wider war, and to
strengthen the existing regional peace initiative".

No Western military operation - in and of itself - can
make Somalia safe from terrorism. Military threats,
intelligence gathering and perhaps limited military
operations to seize certain individuals may deter
terrorists from using Somalia as a haven in the short
run. But such a strategy is unsustainable if it is not
linked with a process aimed ultimately at
reconciliation and the reconstitution of a functioning

All ICG reports are available on our website



For the first time since the last UN mission left the
country in 1995, there is considerable international
interest in Somalia, centred on the possibility that
the country may become part of the global war against
terrorism. The U.S. government suspects that al-Qaeda
may have used Somalia as a staging area or safe haven
in the past and remains concerned - though less than
in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September 2001
attacks - that it could do so again because of the
country's highly fragmented internal security

The U.S. and its allies have already taken some steps
to counter the possible use of Somalia by
international terrorists, including increased
surveillance, the closing down of terrorist-connected
financial institutions and the threat of military
action. Having high-ranking U.S. officials warn about
the threat and possible military response has helped
deter the use by fleeing al-Qaeda members of Somali
territory as a temporary safe haven. However, while
these measures may have kept terrorists from operating
out of Somalia in the short-term, it is the
instability and power vacuum emerging from the
collapse of the Somali state that poses the greatest
danger both to the outside world and to Somalis.
Strong international engagement to bring peace
internally and to reconstruct the failed state is
required now if longer-term counter-terrorism
objectives are to be achieved.

Left essentially to its own devices over the past
seven years, Somalia has seen destructive civil war
and lawless banditry give way to more localised,
unpredictable conflicts between smaller clan-based
factions and warlord militia groups. Limited local
attempts at economic recovery and restoration of the
rule of law have been put at risk by the recent
escalation between opposing factions backed by
regional benefactors. There are great local
disparities. The self-declared and unrecognised
Republic of Somaliland provides significant governance
and security in the Northwest, though its stability is
fragile and threatened by recent political
developments, including the death in May 2002 of its
President, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal. Parts of southern
Somalia and the Northeast, including the autonomous
region of Puntland, remain embroiled in destabilising
armed conflict.

The so-called Transitional National Government, formed
in 1999 at the Arta conference in Djibouti sponsored
by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on
Development (IGAD), is not sufficiently representative
and controls little more than part of the capital,
Mogadishu. Supported by a loose coalition of Arab and
African countries, including Egypt, Libya, Djibouti,
Eritrea and a number of Gulf states, and in alliance
with militia groups, it is engaged in a tense and
occasionally violent stand-off with an opposition
coalition, the Ethiopia-backed Somalia Reconciliation
and Restoration Council. The polarisation between
these two sets of loose alliances is increasing, and a
more direct showdown is highly likely in the absence
of any serious regional or international effort at
conflict prevention.

Islamist organisations have become more prominent in
the past decade. The most important, the indigenous
al-Itihaad al-Islami, aims to establish an Islamic
state in Somalia and in the Somali-inhabited region of
eastern Ethiopia (the Ogaden). In the early to mid
1990s, it organised militias in attempts to gain
control of several key Somali towns. It committed
several acts of terrorism against Ethiopian government
targets in 1995. While its goals have focused
relatively narrowly on Somalia and Ethiopia, it has
had links with international Islamist terrorists in
the past, including al-Qaeda. The possibility of
continued or renewed ties should be closely monitored.

Despite repeated calamities, there is strong Somali
interest in finding a way to stable governance.
Virtually all political and civil society leaders
interviewed by ICG expressed a firm desire for the
international community, particularly the U.S., to
reengage to promote reconciliation and reconstruction
of the state.

If the international community is to do this, its
perspective should be wider than terrorism. Countering
that phenomenon is critical, but Somalia is not
Afghanistan. Local administrative structures are
already in place in many areas of the country. The
most worrisome political movement, al-Itihaad, does
not control local populations or territory and is not
structurally integrated with al-Qaeda as was the
Taliban. Indeed, the reason that Somalia appears to be
a magnet for some terrorists derives from
characteristics as a failed state that make it
attractive for hard-to-trace financial transactions
and transhipment of goods and personnel. Given its
civil conflicts and deep political divisions, no
Western military operation - in and of itself - could
make Somalia "safe from terrorism". Larger military
strikes, which were seriously considered in the few
months after 11 September but are not likely at this
point, could prove counter-productive by alienating
many Somalis and bolstering support for radical
Islamist groups.

While continuing to implement discrete measures that
target the lifeblood of terrorist operations - such as
monitoring remittance companies and assisting in
establishment of accountable financial institutions -
the international community needs to begin the larger
and more difficult process of addressing Somalia's
chronic state failure. To achieve both short- and
long-term counter-terrorism objectives, it is
necessary for key states outside the region to
re-engage politically. Efforts by the regional
organisation IGAD to hold a peace conference for all
Somali stakeholders risk collapse, with regional
divisions and an uncertain agenda leaving even a date
for its convening uncertain.

Diplomatic efforts should have two objectives: first,
to defuse the immediate tensions (both inside Somalia
and among competing regional states) that threaten to
draw sections of the country into wider armed
conflict; and secondly, to create the broader support
structures and favourable conditions for IGAD to help
lead a wider reconciliation and reconstruction

Subsequent ICG reporting will address in greater
detail both the process and the substance of advancing
that political reconciliation and reconstruction.



To The U.S. And Other Members Of The International

Continue to deny use of Somalia to al-Qaeda or other
international terrorists by pursuing tight
surveillance of the sea approaches and by monitoring
remittance companies and transactions between Somali
Islamic groups and the Gulf States.

Assist in establishing formal financial institutions
and branches of international banks in Somalia as
alternatives to informal money transfer arrangements.

Engage Somaliland and other local, functional Somali
authorities in sharing intelligence about extremist

Calibrate any direct military operations inside the
country carefully to the threat, avoiding to the
extent possible in particular actions on a large-scale
or in densely populated areas where such activity may
stimulate a strong backlash that could benefit
movements with extremist Islamist agendas.

To Somalia's Neighbours:

Work closely with the international coalition in
building the capacity to monitor cross-border
movements and shipments of goods, and fully share
intelligence with coalition partners.

To the Transitional National Government:

Cooperate in providing information about al-Itihaad
and deny its members senior positions in the


To the Intergovernmental Authority on Development

Name a single Special Envoy to lead the peace and
reconciliation process, and continue efforts to
convene a conference of Somali stakeholders, but with
greater emphasis on careful preparation and flexible
timetables, as well as increased international

To the Secretary General of the United Nations:

Move rapidly to finalise formation of a "Friends of
Somalia" contact group, while ensuring that it has a
small core of committed states that can engage in
peace-making efforts in Somalia, in particular by
supporting the IGAD mediation efforts.

Establish with adequate staff the panel of experts
proposed by the Security Council to investigate
violations of the arms embargo on Somalia and to lay
the groundwork for an enforcement mechanism that would
- at a minimum - name and shame violators.

To the U.S. and EU:

Participate actively in the proposed new "Friends"
contact group and take the lead in creating a smaller
core group of the "Friends" to operationalise efforts
to work with IGAD in developing a more substantial,
unified mediation structure for the peace and
reconciliation process.

Decide between each other who will assume primary
responsibility within this core group to carry out
shuttle diplomacy, through a senior envoy, in order

determine, with IGAD, the structure, and participation
of a agenda comprehensive, IGAD-sponsored peace
conference; and

consult intensively with outside sponsors of the
various Somali groups (Ethiopia and others) to develop
compromise positions.

Engage the Somali factions to focus them on crucial
issues, in particular political decentralisation.

Implement targeted sanctions aimed at freezing
personal assets, restricting travel and expelling
family members living abroad if individual warlords or
other factions block or undermine the unified peace
and reconciliation process.

Support UN and NGO efforts to respond to humanitarian
needs and support small-scale economic development.

Devise specific programs of institutional support,
including capacity building for law enforcement,
disarmament and reintegration and constitutional
development, that would be implemented if a
broader-based Somali government is established.

To Somalia's Neighbours:

Respect the United Nations arms embargo, discontinue
financial and military assistance to all sides and
encourage them to engage in the peace and
reconciliation process.

If individual warlords or other factions block or
undermine the peace and reconciliation process, work
with the EU and U.S. to implement the targeted
sanctions described above.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a private,
multinational organisation, with over 80 staff members
on five continents, working through field-based
analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and
contain conflict. The ICG Board is chaired by former
Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and its president
is former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.


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