Continuing Conflict in Somalia with Al-Shabab

Continuing Conflict in Somalia with Al-Shabab

Continuing conflict in Somalia and intensification of al-Shabab's terrorist attacks on neighboring countries


Counterterrorism operations and pressure against al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab are likely to intensify and potentially lead the group to launch further terrorist attacks in neighboring countries. Al-Shabab demonstrated its intent to expand beyond Somalia on September 23, 2013, when it orchestrated the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, which lasted three days and resulted in the death of at least sixty-seven people. Al-Shabab cited the interference of foreign troops in Somalia as its motivation for the attack; Kenyan troops, now operating as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), entered the country in 2011 to drive militants out of the south. Interclan violence, attacks by al-Shabab, and conflicts with neighboring countries—including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti over Somali-occupied territory—threaten to undermine the authority of the central government.

The United States has pursued a two-pronged approach in Somalia by providing financial and logistical support to AMISOM and conducting counterterrorism operations, including drone strikes and special operations forces raids against suspected al-Shabab militants. In September 2014, the United States launched a drone strike that killed al-Shabab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, and the group immediately named Ahmed Umar as his successor. The spread of al-Shabab across borders or internal destabilization in Somalia that allows al-Shabab to regain its stronghold could undermine U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa and result in heightened terrorist threats against the United States or its regional partners.

Please note that this contingency was not identified as one of the top thirty conflict prevention priorities included in the 2015 Preventive Priorities Survey, which was completed in November 2014. 

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