Al-Shabaab, a brutal Somalian insurgency, has claimed credit for
the attacks that killed 74 civilians in Kampala, Uganda, on Sunday. The
bombings shocked many East Africa observers as al-Shabaab has never
before struck outside Somalia and Uganda does not have an extensive
history of terrorism. Most analysts ascribe al-Shabaab's attacks
to the group's ongoing battle in the Somalian civil war, to which Uganda
contributes 2,000 peacekeepers. How much should this concern the U.S.
and how can, or should, the U.S. respond?
- Growing Concern
Among U.S. Policy Makers The New York Times' Mark Landler reports
"deepened worries among American authorities about another once
localized Islamic group that is spreading its terrorism across borders,
using a playbook written by Al Qaeda. ... Analysts and officials said
the emergence of the Shabab on the world stage fit a pattern of
localized Islamic militant groups that have been able to mount
sophisticated operations farther and farther afield, including the
attempt by a Qaeda-linked group to blow up a plane on its way to Detroit
on Dec. 25. ... 'This was a localized cancer, but the cancer has
metastasized into a regional crisis,' said Johnnie Carson, the assistant
secretary of state for African affairs."
- Increase U.S. Operations in Somalia The editorial board of the Washington Post frets, "The Obama administration hasn't
ignored the danger: In addition to
providing aid to the Somali government and army, it has ordered raids by
U.S. forces on terrorist targets in Somalia.
... But Kenya's foreign minister, Moses Wetangula, was right when he
last week -- before the Uganda bombings -- that the United States was
not doing enough to combat the threat. The Somali government and army
need more help, and ideally, more foreign forces; more should be done to
stop the flow of weapons into the country. More U.S. counterterrorism
operations against al-Shabab leaders should be undertaken."
- But Foreign Involvement in Somalia Very Risky Foreign Policy's Elizabeth Dickinson writes,
"In Somalia's two-decade history of ungoverned chaos, it has been
well-meaning foreign intervention -- whether military or political --
that has consistently refigured the country's course. Usually, for the
worse. Now the attempt to address al-Shabab's broadening capabilities
could kick off another round of international intervention in Somalia,
with equally dismal results."
- Will Uganda Leave Somalia?
Uganda plays an important role for the U.S. as a proxy peacekeeping
force in Somalia, where the U.S. wants stability but cannot send in its
own troops for legal reasons as well as a desire not to provoke an
anti-American backlash. Foreign Policy's Michael Wilkerson worries,
"Yesterday's attacks, however, are likely to force the Ugandan
government to rethink -- or at least justify -- its involvement in
Somalia. Indeed, across Uganda today, questions are already being
raised. Many Ugandans are now wondering why their country went to
Somalia in the first place and are seeing the attacks as a good reason
Watch Carefully for al-Qaeda Connection There's no substantive
connection yet, but al-Qaeda analyst Leah Farrall says we should keep our eyes peeled for a
possible merger. "al-Shabab just earned its stripes, which as we’ve seen
with previous mergers, is a pre-requisite before formal AQ core
recognition. ... AQ could use the benefits a merger with the group would
bring. ... I’d guess that as a result of this AQ has revisited its
al-Shabab over the past little while, even though very real concerns
exist about al-Shabab’s conflict with other groups within Somalia, some
of whose leaders have historical links with AQ."
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