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It is of interest to note that those countries which have good governance are successful in fighting terrorism.”— Maxim Worcester

“Deadly terrorism has metastasized to Africa,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. military commander in Africa

“Every time you take a train, step into your car, walk into the shopping mall, go to the airport – every single time, something could happen. That’s how terrorism works.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This week we will get back to some basics of why I chose to start writing More than Meets the Eye. We will get back to simple old-fashioned “terrorism.” We’ve been looking at  global security issues at a more macro scale with the Afghanistan incursion by the Taliban followed by the catastrophic invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Soon we will be addressing the Chinese invasion of Taiwan and their subjugation of that prosperous sovereign nation state. 

I think on a global scale we are seeing that just about everybody, from individuals to groups to nations, does what is right in their own eyes, and each pursues ultimately what is good for them politically, economically, or socially. The globalized world as we know it has stubbed its big toe and is reeling from the pain, not sure of how to respond collectively. The pain is eliciting the same demand for a response, whether it be at a local, national, or global level, and there are multiple directions that this can go. If I were a betting man, I predict that we will see the continued growth of expressive individualism” until it gets to a ridiculous point where the collective will eventually realize the untenable position of 7 billion expressive individuals all clamoring for the demand to be accepted for what they desire, no matter how bizarre or detrimental it might be to the larger community. When that happens the global collective will step in and a global state will emerge and begin to impose a new social contract that will not be optional, but compulsory for all. The thing that is most interesting to me is that it will come at the passionate demand of the general populace. The global community will cry out with passionate pleas of “save me” as this degeneration towards “expressive individualism” turns chaotic and anarchist. Many will be so busy demanding their own “self-identity” to be recognized, that they won’t notice that there are 7 billion other people just like them, all requiring that others accept and embrace their individual rights and ideologies or risk being called a “hater” and a “phobic.” 

This kind of world will unleash a form of ideological terrorism the likes of which we have not seen. If we add continued technological advances to this equation, the picture gets even scarier as expressive individuals begin to demand their rights and, when they do not feel validated, resort to forms of terrorism that have the potential to be catastrophic.

This week we will begin with a cursory look at several emerging terrorist groups in Africa. They are not household names in the West, such as ISIS and al Qaeda, but I can assure you that a significant part of the population in the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and parts of Sudan) are very aware of the threat these groups represent.

The Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda-linked groups, Boko Haram, and other extremist movements are protagonists in today’s deadliest crises, complicating efforts to end them. They have exploited wars, state collapse, and geopolitical upheaval in the Middle East, gained new footholds in Africa, and pose an evolving threat elsewhere. Reversing their gains requires avoiding the mistakes that enabled their rise. This means distinguishing between groups with different goals; using force more judiciously; ousting militants only with a viable plan for what comes next; and looking to open lines of communication, even with hardliners. We will take a look at a specific organization, relative new kids on the block, called al Shabaab.

Review. 

Al Shabaab, meaning “The Youth” in Arabic, is the largest militant organization fighting to oust the Somali government and the foreign military presence supporting it. The group seeks to control territory within Somalia in order to establish a society based on its rigid interpretation of Sharia law. Although based in Somalia, Al-Shabaab also conducts attacks in neighboring countries, notably Kenya. Al-Shabaab emerged as an independent organization around December 2006 after breaking away from the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), for which it had served as the military wing. Since the late 2000s, Al Shabaab has had close ties to Al Qaeda and has sought to frame the Somali struggle as part of a global jihadist movement. The group has engaged in bombings, suicide attacks, and armed assaults, especially against Somali government targets, Christians, private civilians, foreign troops, diplomats, and aid or nongovernmental organization workers.

The US State Department designated al-Shabaab a foreign terrorist organization in February 2008. Al-Shabaab’s leadership declared allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012. U.S. President Joe Biden has approved a Defense Department plan to redeploy American troops to Somalia to shore up counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabaab, one of Africa’s deadliest and most powerful militant groups. 

Biden’s decision will send several hundred U.S. special operators back into Somalia to help the fragile Somali federal government fight off the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab terrorist group. The decision largely reverses former President Donald Trump’s directive to withdraw some 750 U.S. troops from the East African country shortly before leaving office in January 2021, as part of his broader efforts to draw down the U.S. military’s presence abroad. 

The past couple of years there has been a push to engage jihadist organizations through negotiations and dialogue. However, social transformations connected to this manner of globalization and local demographic pressures will seemingly continue to demand and even favor violence as the principle means for resolving disputes at a local level. This will be most felt in the Sahelian region, reaching from the Sudanese province of Darfur in the east, across the CAR, southern Chad, northern Cameroon, Mali, and Niger. The tri-border area between Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya is also at risk of developing into a zone of entrenched social conflict.

A significant part of the problem:

The problem of weak and failing states is significantly more dangerous than is generally understood as these unstable regions are a breeding ground for organized crime and terrorism. A case study is that of the greater Horn of Africa which includes Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. There are two clusters of conflict emanating from specific states continuing to destabilize the region. 

  1. The first centers on interlocking rebellions in Sudan and affects northern Uganda, eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic. One of the main culprits are the Sudanese government, which is supporting rebels in these three neighboring countries; and those states which are supporting Sudanese groups opposing Khartoum. This conflict is driven by the Sudanese wish to prevent a fragmentation of the country, which has already partially happened with the declaration of independence of South Sudan. 
  2. The second cluster links the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea with the power struggle in Somalia, which involves the secular government, anti-government clan militias and anti- Islamic warlords. Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia in December 2006 temporarily secured the transitional governments position, but this appears to have sown the seed for a future Islamic and clan-based insurgency, with regional implications.

Weak and failing states offer terrorists space to train and recruit dissatisfied followers; think Afghanistan, pre-9/11. Often such countries are “no-go areas” for government troops, they are also a safe haven to retreat to between operations, much as northern Pakistan is today for the Taliban operating in Afghanistan. Furthermore, such states also offer the possibility of financing terrorism through the exploitation of natural wealth. 

Good governance is central to the effective administration of a state’s resources (that includes the servants of the state), the rule of law, the creation of a functioning private sector and the development of a strong civil society. Without this in place there can be no really successful antiterrorist program.

Hopefully, the commitment of US Troops, even such a small contingent of less than 500, will be a demonstrative move intended to support strengthening the local elected government and help to create a civil society where the East Africans can live in peace and prosperity.

Why.

It is essential that we all understand the impact of escalating levels of technology. The lethality and reach of modern weapon systems allows just about any organization of malcontents to have a long arm and a catastrophic impact on unsuspecting civilian populations.

U.S. military officials have long believed that al-Shabaab has the intent to attack the United States, though it lacks the capabilities to do so currently, and the Pentagon considers the group both the fastest-growing and most kinetically active terrorist cell on the continent. 

I continue to beat the situational awareness drum, advising all More than Meets the Eye readers to remain vigilant and watchful as they move about through public spaces. Even the most rudimentary situational awareness practices can save your life and the lives of your family. 

Action.

Perhaps the most practical action I can offer you right now is to demonstrate to you how to think about situational awareness. Let me introduce you to something called the Cooper Scale.

Perhaps the most effective way to illustrate the differences between the levels is to compare them to the different degrees of attention we practice while driving.

The first level, tuned out, is similar to when you are driving in a very familiar environment or are engrossed in thought, a daydream, or a song on the radio.

The second level of awareness, relaxed awareness,,is like defensive driving. This is a state in which you are relaxed but are also watching the other cars on the road and are looking at the road ahead for potential hazards.

The third level of awareness, focused awareness, is like driving in hazardous road conditions. You need to practice this level of awareness when you are driving on icy or slushy roads — or the pothole-infested roads.

The fourth level of awareness is high alert. This is the level that induces an adrenaline rush, a prayer, and a gasp for air all at the same time…. or when my daughters are driving! This is what happens when that car you are watching at the intersection ahead doesn’t stop at the stop sign and pulls out right in front of you.

The fifth level of awareness, comatose, is what happens when you literally freeze at the wheel and cannot respond to stimuli, either because you have fallen asleep or, at the other end of the spectrum, because you are petrified.

It is like trying to shift from 1st to 4th gear… the  car just stalls and shuts down…

The key is to move up and down the different levels of alertness with ease. 

The follow-up.

This technology could change the nature of warfare… Drone swarm fly through dense forest… https://insights.globalspec.com/article/18682/watch-this-drone-swarm-fly-through-dense-forest?uid=%2D956606327&uh=d9c67f&md=220523&mh=6d2bb2&Vol=Vol15Issue5&Pub=67&LinkId=2101027&keyword=link%5F2101027&itemid=377983&loginOk=1&frmtrk=newsletter&cid=nl

Don’t be dazzled by Russia’s laser weapons claims: Experts… https://breakingdefense.com/2022/05/dont-be-dazzled-by-russias-laser-weapons-claims-experts/?utm_campaign=Newsletters&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=213968648&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8n68hIe8H9pGJFWDhOCnB2hWZS_2FHwL3xiaW3fHQZrDmmAtJMIhvT7QKCS5r11wfb0rku1-DNN3rieqdHDR2mtruRNw&utm_content=213968648&utm_source=hs_email

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:  david@morethanmeets.co

Resources.

https://www.crisisgroup.org/global/exploiting-disorder-al-qaeda-and-islamic-state

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/al-shabab

https://ctc.usma.edu/terrorist-groups/al-shabaab/

The triumph of the therapeutic; uses of faith after Freud…https://unearnedwisdom.com/the-triumph-of-the-therapeutic-summary/

https://www.counterextremism.com/threat/al-shabaab

https://www.state.gov/reports/country-reports-on-terrorism-2019/somalia/

https://www.visionofhumanity.org/country-close-up-terrorism-in-somalia/

https://www.dni.gov/nctc/groups/al_shabaab.html

https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/al-shabab-somalia

https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/05/16/us-troops-somalia-return/

https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14840.doc.htm

https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/al-shabaab

https://www.justsecurity.org/81559/bidens-new-counterterrorism-policy-in-somalia-cautions-and-unknowns/

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2022-05-16/biden-deploys-u-s-forces-back-to-somalia-amid-terrorism-threat-overturning-trump-move

https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/50103/combating_terrorism_africa.pdf

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/20893/pdf

https://items.ssrc.org/crisis-in-the-horn-of-africa/somalia-a-new-front-against-terrorism/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10220460903268984

https://www.wionews.com/world/somalia-elects-next-president-but-terrorists-hold-true-power-479119

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2011-01-01/pirate-state-inside-somalias-terrorism-sea

https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/endless-us-war-terror-somalia-30359

https://www.dw.com/en/somalia-how-al-shabab-extorts-money-for-terror-attacks/av-61888480

https://warontherocks.com/2021/10/now-is-the-time-to-engage-al-shabaab-religious-leaders-and-clan-elders-can-help/

 

© 2019 • More Than Meets