Somalia-Countering Terrorism in a Failed State

23 May 2002

35pages PDF

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 situation. 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.