WASHINGTON, September 23, 2013 — As the World watches the Kenyan mall shooting in Nairobi which has left sixty nine dead and dozens wounded, the group responsible, Somali based al-Shabaab, is claiming a major victory. In a weekend already marred by the deaths of dozens of Christians at the hands of Taliban suicide bombers in Pakistan, the Kenya mall shooting is a chilling reminder that Islamic militants are still strong on the Horn of Africa.
The attack in Kenya was reportedly in retaliation for Operation Linda Nchi, which involved the incursion of Western, Kenyan, and Ethiopian troops into Somalia to rescue hostages taken by al-Shabaab which ended in June of 2012.
However in addition to the claim of retaliation for the invasion of Somalia, the attack by al-Shabaab represents a deeper concern for the Horn of Africa, and for the entire World.
In Afghanistan, the United States and many Western nations are fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban in retaliation for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks which killed thousands of American civilians. In Somalia, the United States and many Western nations are fighting alongside the Somali government against al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab and their allies who are seeking to plunge the area into further destabilization after an ongoing 22 year war which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. In Syria, the United States is actively supplying the Syrian Opposition, which has reportedly been hijacked by radical Islamists, supported by al-Qaeda.
Do you see how this can get a little confusing?
It is not as though the US had no idea they were supplying terrorists. In fact President Obama waived the very federal law which barred any American from providing material support to a terrorist organization in order to be able to arm the Syrian Opposition.
The United States is sending mixed messages. While the Us supports al-Qaeda in Syria, 2100 miles away in Afghanistan al-Qaeda forces are actively engaged in killing American and Allied soldiers. While the United States supports al-Qaeda in Syria, 2500 miles away al-Qaeda linked Taliban sends suicide bombers into a Church killing dozens. While the United States supports al-Qaeda in Syria, 3000 miles away al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to undermine local North African governments and destabilize the region killing thousands in the process.
Perhaps emboldened by the confusion in the US State and Defense Departments, and the relative neglect with which the North Africa and the Horn have suffered at the hands of the West, militant groups such as al-Shabaab and AQIM will seek to expand their campaign of destabilization and brutal insurgency tactics to nations previously outside of their operating sphere.
Somalia has been at war with itself for over 22 years. That conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and will continue to do so until the threat that such a conflict poses is recognized.
Ongoing civil wars and conflicts in the Middle East and Africa pose a major threat to regional and global security. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Somalia are all prime examples of that concept. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the instability left behind in the wake of the US led Allied invasions has created a proving ground for unbloodied al-Qaeda and other jihadist fighters to earn their stripes against American and Western soldiers. Libya, and Syria are much of the same, except insurgencies there were in the guise of revolution and either were or are supported by the Western powers. Such conflict zones provide a playground and a market place for arms dealers to flood the region with weapons, making the tools of waging war relatively easy to come by.
Somalia presents a different kind of danger entirely. While al-Shabaab militants were run out of Mogadishu, they and their allies continue to undermine the government and strike at targets in all directions. The failure and inability of the Somali government to provide a suitable resistance to these groups allows al-Shabaab to create a safe haven for militants from around the World. It is not the simple failure of the government that keeps Somalia as what amounts to a terrorist state, but the support of al-Qaeda and their donor pool pumping money and manpower into the region helps sustain the instability. With the Somali government unable to mount a credible counterinsurgency, groups such as al-Shabaab will not only thrive but to grow.
The United States needs to reset, and recognize that unstable regions and ongoing civil wars in Africa and the World are detrimental to American interests, and those of her allies. Furthermore, such conflicts prove to be too much for local governments, forcing the civilian populations of these nations to endure the brunt of the force brought down by the Islamic radicals. Until the West realizes that combating radical Islam around the World carries greater importance than punishing the actions of one dictator. And until we realize that, and until we recognize the growing influence of radical Islam in Africa, the people of the World will continue to see more events like the Kenyan mall shooting, and they will continue to see the death toll rise on a continent which has too long suffered from Global neglect.
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