al Shabaab: Reaching Beyond Somalia?

July 16, 2010 — Bronwyn Bruton and Ambassador David H. Shinn joined us to discuss al Shabaab in the context of the security situation in East Africa. Ms. Bruton was an international affairs fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2008 through 2009. She authored the March 2010 report at CFR entitled “Somalia: A New Approach”. Ambassador David Shinn is an adjunct professor of International Affairs at George Washington University. He served as the US Ambassador to Ethiopia from 1996 to 1999. He also served as the Ambassador to Burkina Faso from 1987 to 1990.

Ms. Bruton began by discussing the current situation in Somalia, focusing on the humanitarian, military, and political problems. In each of these areas, she pointed out how current policy and action is inadequate to meeting the needs on the ground. She also outlined how al Shabaab is linked to all three of these problems and why the US is struggling to find solutions. In concluding her opening remarks, Ms. Bruton laid out policy options facing the US and their potential consequences.

Ambassador Shinn started his presentation by looking at al Shabaab in the context of terrorism in East Africa and across the world. He discussed the ideology of the organization and the challenges al Shabaab presents to those attempting to defeat it. He also explored the capacity of al Shabaab to carry out attacks beyond its borders. Just as Ms. Bruton did, Ambassador Shinn analyzed military and political policy options for the current security dilemma in Somalia.

During the question and answer segment, the attendees voiced several different concerns regarding al Shabaab and Somalia. One major concerned focused on the military aspect of the conflict and, more specifically, concern over how and where a Somali force could be successfully raised. Other questions focused on the role the US military can play, domestic and local opinion of al Shabaab, splintering within al Shabaab, and the possibility of threats to the autonomous regions in northern Somalia.

Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].


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