Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Nairobi Attack Exposes Flawed U.S. Terror Policies

The recent assault by Somali terrorists on a Kenyan mall has highlighted the limitations of—and blowback from—targeting terrorists without addressing certain root causes of terrorism.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

In the aftermath of the worst terror attack in East Africa in three years, foreign policy scholars here are urging the U.S. government to rethink its counter-terror policy in the region.

As the number of victims rises to 62 in an armed siege that has held dozens of people hostage in a major mall in uptown Nairobi, many are suggesting that the Somali Al Shabaab militant organisation, reportedly linked to Al-Qaeda, may be stronger and better organised than previously thought.

Just over a year ago, joint U.S.-Kenyan forces managed to expel Al Shabaab from their last stronghold in southern Somalia, leading the U.S. government to call it a success story for U.S. counter-terror policy. But what has taken place over the weekend in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall could suggest otherwise.

“This attack should be seen as a call to action,” Katherine Zimmermann, of the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank, told IPS. “What the attack shows is that the fight against terrorism in Africa has stagnated and that groups like Al Shabaab are much stronger than the U.S. administration thought.”

In coming days, U.S. policymakers may look anew at their counter-terror approach, particularly in Kenya, where the government has been a key U.S. ally.

“What this attack does is strengthen the notion that the region ought not to be seen solely through the lenses of counter-terrorism, sacrificing other equally important issues the international community should address,” Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on non-traditional security threats at the Brookings Institution, told IPS.

“Current U.S. counter-terror strategy in the region has focused primarily on targeted attacks against Al Shabaab, while it should have addressed the structural causes of their radicalisation.”

Felbab-Brown cites high unemployment, a weak Somali economy and widespread corruption as the main reasons behind the radicalisation of youths that have joined Al Shabaab. U.S. counter-terror efforts, she says, have devoted little or no attention to these issues.

The U.S. government delivered a total of 445 million dollars in security aid to Somalia between 2008 and 2011, almost 50 percent of total U.S. aid to the country during that period. What seems to be missing from the U.S. strategy, Felbab-Brown says, is “a real effort to improve the Somali economy and urge the government to foster a broader political inclusion of these youth”.

Few analysts would suggest that the issue of counter-terrorism should be left off the agenda in East Africa entirely. But experts in Washington are increasingly urging that U.S. strategy include concrete efforts aimed at strengthening civil society and rebuilding the Somali judiciary system, which remains dysfunctional following decades of civil war.

Following the attack, the U.S. government immediately promised to aid the Kenyan government in the aftermath of the attack.

“We have offered our assistance to the government of Kenya and stand ready to help in any way we can,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday.

No surprise

U.S. counter-terrorism involvement in Somalia began in the early 2000s, during the administration of President George W. Bush. At the time, the U.S. government sought to help both Somalia and neighbouring Ethiopia to topple the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which at the time was seeking to replace the power vacuum in Somalia with an Islamic regime run in accordance with Sharia law.

Al Shabaab formed during those years as the military wing of the ICU, and it has since sought to expel “hostile forces” in the region. Yet international forces, facilitated particularly by the United States, eventually made significant inroads in the fight against Shabaab militants.

Between 2011 and 2012, the U.S.-backed Kenyan military led a series of counter-terror strikes inside Somalia that resulted in the ouster of the group from Kismayo, a key coastal town known for its access to the oil routes of the Red Sea and Al Shabaab’s last stronghold in Somalia.

The U.S. Department of State welcomed Kismayo’s liberation as the end of the battle and greeted the “African Union Mission’s (AMISOM) success in driving the al-Shabaab terrorist organization out of strategically important population centers” as important achievements for U.S. counter-terror strategy in the region.

But the group, with a membership estimated at around 5,000 militants, was never really defeated, its continued strength now underlined by this weekend’s siege of the Nairobi mall. The Westgate attack is just the latest in a series of retaliatory measures taken by Al Shabaab against its enemies in East Africa, including a raid against a U.N. compound in June.

“The terrorist attack at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre was evidently a retaliation by Al Shabaab for the Kenyan military presence in Somalia since October 2011, and a deliberate signal that they are still a force to be reckoned with,” James Jennings, president of Conscience International, a humanitarian aid organisation that worked in Somalia during the 2010-11 famine, said.

“It represents a continuation of the violence that has swirled throughout East Africa in the wake of the disintegration of Somalia, a war now increasingly being exported across the region’s borders.”

Other analysts are suggesting that the mall was an attractive target because Westerners, including those from the U.S., frequented it.

Ramy Srour is a contributor to Inter Press Service.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share