Somalia: terrorist haven and proxy wars

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Laura Khor

PhD Candidate

University of St Andrews

Arts Faculty Building, Library Park

The Scores, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

KY16 9AX


Work in Progress

Anarchy. Chaos. Terrorists. Safe havens. Warlords. Ungoverned Spaces. Arc of Instability. Humanitarian problems. All of these words have been used to describe the phenomenon of “Failed States”. The reality of “Failed States” poses a challenge for conceptual frameworks, political norms and social construction and reconstruction of the amorphous term and idea. Failed states are hard to categorize, as numerous studies and debates have highlighted the problem of state weakness, failure and collapse. These are all terms used to describe anomalies in the state system. One country in particular, Somalia, can be considered a failure among failed states for the length and durability of its failed state status. Somalia is a country that has been in a state of collapse since 1991 with the complete disintegration of the central government. The political rhetoric and images of insecurity associated with the term “Failed States” are often images of violence and complete anarchy. Images from the movie Black Hawk Down and the everyday chaos reported in Somalia, the casebook example of a “Failed State”, are the first associations of the “Failed States” for American Foreign Policy makers.1 Lawlessness and crime rule in failed states where governments, judiciary, and laws once operated and reigned. Public policy, particularly the United States, was affected by a “Mogadishu effect” that lasted for several years until transnational security issues and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 prompted a rethinking of failed states and security.2


The methodology utilized in this paper will be focused on second hand resources, interviews with military personnel from UNISOM 1 and UNISOM 2. In particular, interviews with military personnel and policymakers, such as Brigadier General Latiff who headed the Malaysian troops for the United Nations in UNOSOM 1 and 2 will highlight the conceptualization and engagement with “Failed States”. The use of process-tracing key events and American foreign policy responses will focus on the post-9/11 security environment and the rise and fall of the Islamic Courts Union. There are several challenges to the use of the case study of Somalia, as few researchers have been to the state and information can be sporadic due violence and other security issues and concerns.

Constructing a Definition
The term “failed states” is a relatively new analytical term used to describe a state, but the term and its definition and theory may not reflect political reality. These terms have been used to describe virtual states in the international state system. The definitions of “Failed States” are amorphous in academia and public policy, presenting a contested issue for scholars, researchers and political actors. The complexity of defining and constructing the threats “Failed States” become and pose is the foundation for the broader issue of state failure and (in)security. The conceptualization of “Failed States” is necessary to understand why the highly securitized construction of failed states represents a shift in assessing and understanding transnational security threats. Author Robert I. Rotberg argues that state failure is described as,

Nation-states fail when they are consumed by internal violence and cease delivering positive political goods to their inhabitants. Their governments lose credibility, and the continuing nature of the particular nation-state itself becomes questionable and illegitimate in the hearts and minds of its citizens.3

This definition does not define “failure” in delivering positive political goods. In other words, how do we interpret a level for failure?

The Causes of State Failure
The use of the politically constructed term “Failed States” entered policy and political rhetoric in the early and mid-1990s to describe the post-Cold War world.4 In particular, the mainstream International Relations concept of “Failed States” is not an analytically effective tool for fully comprehending the dynamism of state failure. The dynamic causes and consequences of state failure and policy responses have been limited to neorealist and neoliberal thinking which has resulted in mixed policy responses.

This short introduction to classifying such causes and indicators leading to state failure hopes to highlight the complexity behind this terminology. The variety of indicators used to determine state failure can vary from the simple to the complex. The Failed State Index by Foreign Policy Magazine and the Fund for Peace utilizes 12 indicators as part of a Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) when ranking 148 states.5 The 12 social, economic and political indicators for state vulnerability range from “Chronic and Sustained Human Flight” to “Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State”6 The variety of indicators to identify a weak, failing, failed and collapsed state illustrates the depth of the challenge of defining state failure.

All states are not the same in capacity, capability and political will. The variety of states in the international system illustrates the difference between strong, weak, collapsed and failed states. These labels are not interchangeable as they denote different levels of states in the international political system. Authors Pinar Bilgin and Adam David Morton argue that, “[T]he notion of a ‘failed’ state, for instance, is used to describe the internal characteristics of a state, whereas ‘rogue’ states are labeled as such because of their foreign policy behaviours.”7 A variety of terms, referring to a continuum of troubled states in the international state system.

States are the “building blocks of world order”8 and are why the concept of state failure is troubling to conceptualize and resuscitate. Throughout human history, nations, regimes and empires have risen and fallen. Nation-states are the normative framework in international relations theory and are the political reality that governs people, law, and security. Nation-States are the political actors that are ascribed with specific rules and expectations associated with sovereignty, but not all states have the political will or capacity to fulfill their state obligations, political goods or sovereignty expectations.

State capacity and capability differ from country to country. Author Robert H. Jackson introduced the concept of “quasi-states” to highlight the global political systems dependence on such a unit of analysis and paradigm. Jackson was concerned with weak states that did not fulfill the traditional concept of state sovereignty. Jackson argues that, “[T]he problem is that underdeveloped states claim both security rights and development rights and the international community desires to acknowledge both claims but classical rules of sovereign states-systems get in the way.”9 States that should not be considered states, in the classical legal sense, are operating on two different definition levels of a nation-state and are surviving due to stronger states aid and the flexibility of the “new sovereignty game.”10 A “Failed State,” then, is a member of the international system but the political reality is strikingly different from conceptual reality. State security is complicated with the security issues and failure indicators of patrimonialism, warlordism, poor economies, lack of or deteriorating civil society, and weak government institutions exploited by elites.

State performance based on deliverance of political goods is pivotal to understanding the difference between failing, failed, and collapsed states. States and state performance should be conceptualized as a continuum of government effectiveness described as strong states, weak states, failing states, failed states, and collapsed states. Strong states and weak states have key differences. Author Robert I. Rotberg articulates that strong states outperform weak states in performance of political will by delivering political goods.11

Strong states unquestionably control their territories and deliver a full range and a high quality of political goods to their citizens. They perform well according to indicators like GDP per capita, the UNDP Human Development Index, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and Freedom House’s Freedom of the World Report. Strong states offer high levels of security from political and criminal violence, ensure political freedom and civil liberties, and create environments conducive to the growth of economic opportunity. The rule of law prevails. Judges are independent. Road networks are well maintained. Telephones work. . .Overall, strong states are places of enviable peace and order.12
Strong states provide security within their borders to their citizens. In comparison, weak states do not provide such levels of political will. The defining characteristics of weak states, articulated by Rotberg, are:

Weak states (broadly states in crisis) include a broad continuum of states: they may be inherently weak because of geographical, physical, or fundamental economic constraints; or they may be basically strong, but temporarily or situationally weak because of internal antagonisms, management flaws, greed, despotism, or external attacks. Weak states typically harbor ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other intercommunal tensions that have not yet, or not yet thoroughly, become overtly violent . . . In weak states, the ability to provide adequate amounts of other political goods is diminished or is diminishing . . . Weak states usually honor rule of law precepts in the breach. They harass civi society. Weak states are often rules by despots, elected or not.
All weak states do not necessarily slide into failing, failed or collapsed categories. The threshold between state weakness transforming into state failure has additional indicators tipping a state into failure. There are significant differences between a failed and a collapsed state. “Failed States” do not remain fixed in their status or history and can exhibit more than one failed state characteristic at once.13 Specific indicators identify “Failed States”. Author A.J. Christopher highlights the disintegration of central and local administrations as one cause leading to state failure.14 “Failed States” may have regimes that target their own citizenry, encourages or is even the cause of conflicts, which results in escalating criminal violence within state borders. The legitimacy of the state is lost as the state infrastructure deteriorates or is completely destroyed; the economy falters then collapses, key indicators to identifying state failure.15 Overall, “Failed States” are either unable or unwilling to carry on with the Hobbesian Social Contract. The collapse of the state infrastructure and societal failure are viewed on a continuum that are interconnected and interrelated to one another. One stage of failure inevitably leads to the other.16 All failed states cannot be researched as the same entities. State failure can be understood not as one level, rather a variety of levels. Scholar Jean Germain Gros proposed five types of failed state categories or stages:

Five types of failed states are thus identified. First, there are anarchic states, which by definition have no centralized government whatsoever . . . A close cousin of the anarchic state is the phantom or mirage state, of which today’s Zaire is an excellent example. The difference between an anarchic state and a phantom one is that while all anarchic states are ipso facto phantom states, not all phantom states are anarchic. . . Third, there are anaemic stats whose status stems from two sources. States may be anaemic because their energy has been sapped by counter-insurgency groups seeking to take the place of the authority that is formally in power. . . States may also be anaemic because the engines of modernity were never put in place; as a result as population growth puts increasing demands on archaic structures, state agents are in no position to assert effective control. . . Fourth, there are captured states, which typically have a strong centralized authority but one that is captured by members of insecure elites to frustrate—and in the extreme eradicate—rival elites. . .Fifth, and finally, there are states that are failed in vitro (they are called aborted states), meaning that they experienced failure even before the process of state formation was consolidated.17

Gros’ failed state typology argues that state failure is subtly nuanced and occurs in different stages.18 States can simultaneously exist within the five stages described by Gros or go through various stages rapidly or begin an agonizing descent. State weakness and failure are not terminal definitions. States can become strong states and reverse the causes and indicators of their security situation.

Collapsed states have a variety of explanations from scholars, but the theoretical framework to explain this phenomenon has also challenged academics and politicians.

Robert I. Rotberg describes a collapsed state as,

. . . is a rare and extreme version of a failed state. Political good are obtained through private or ad hoc means. Security is equated with the rule of the strong. A collapsed state exhibits a vacuum of authority. It is a mere geographical expression, a black hole into which a failed polity has fallen. There is a dark energy, but the forces of entropy have overwhelmed the radiance that hitherto provided some semblance or order and other vital political goods to the inhabitants (no longer citizens) embraced by language or ethnic affinities or borders.19

Rotberg emphasizes the lack of or excess of political goods to explain a collapsed state. This is one perspective on state collapse. Author I. William Zartman defines state collapse as,

State collapse is both the cause and the result of internal or civil wars, as weak and illegitimate order permits violence and violence consumes legitimacy and order. Although no two cases of state collapse are the same and “collapse” can take on a variety of specific manifestations, the fundamental fact of the disappearance of state institutions, law, and order creates inhumanities and insecurities that affect the surrounding countries.20

Zartman focuses on state violence as the main impetus to cause state collapse. While Author Douglas Dearth describes the shift from a weak state to a collapsed state as,

[f]irst institutions fail to provide adequate services to the population. Second, improperly channeled ethnic, social and ideological competitions erode the effectiveness of these weak institutions and even more. Finally, the cumulative effects of poverty, overpopulation, rural flight and rapid urbanization, as well as environmental degradation, overwhelm the weak state to the point of collapse.21

All of these definitions and conceptions of the causes of state collapse illustrate the variety in approach and construction of state weakness, failure and collapse.

In order to understand state failure, one must understand the structure that allows such states to exist. States are the units of power and sovereignty for a people. A state has a clear definition and function. Quasi-states, those states with “limited empirical statehood”, have been operating in an international system that allows them to operate without fulfilling the bare basics of positive sovereignty.22 In the Westphalian system, all states are treated equal even though many states are stronger than others in delivering positive goods to their citizenry. Author Timothy Raeymaekers argues that,

The discussion on state collapse thus seems to be placed in a growing deadlock between classical state-centrist approaches-which keep pointing at functional problems-and more society-oriented insights that try to explain other political and economic loyalties that have emerged in the context of weak state performance.23
The theoretical approaches and policy implemented focus on a complete rebuilding of the failed state institutions and legitimacy. In the case of Somalia, the terms are used to refer to a virtual state, it exists on a map but the physical reality of security, sovereignty and a centralized government does not exist. As Brigadier General Latiff described the situation in the early 1990s, and the government situation in Somalia during UN operations. In an interview, Brigadier General Latiff highlighted the spoiler agendas challenging the UN’s mandate of reconstruction and stabilization efforts for Somalia.

At that point in time, there was no proper government, there was no proper government in the sense, you know, there was no government in Somalia There was a interim President, interim President, by the name of Ali Mahdi and that was a temporary sort of arrangement that we had and we moved in . . .That particular operation to me was a success but in terms of overall time we were there but unfortunately we did not manage to do what we were suppose to do to build up and to help form a government because the people, to my mind, there are a lot of agendas different agendas especially the locals everybody wants to become the leader, everybody wants to become president, everybody wants to become ministers. So how do we do? How do we start from there? They got a lot of clans every clan wants a representative in the council to me they have not succeeded to form a government. . .24

There have been numerous attempts to form a centralized government in Somalia; the current government is the Transitional Federal Government which has been operating since October 2004.

Somalia: Terrorist Paradise or GWOT Proxy War?

Somalia gained independence on June 1, 1960 when British and Italian colonies were combined to form the Somali Republic. Independence on June 26, 1960 from British Somaliland and July 1, 1960 from Italian Somaliland when the two were united to form one united post-colonial rule country. The Somali people in these two colonial countries share a common language, religion of Islam and customs and traditions. Somalia has five major clan25 groups: the Dir, the Hawiye, the Isaq, the Darod, and the Rahanweyn.26 The country had a multi-party clan-based political system that broke down resulting in the 1969 military coup of Mohammad Siad Barre.27 As Hussein M. Adam argued,

A foreign-expert-drafted ‘democratic’ constitution for Somalia turned out to lack the sensitivity of the Issa elders; it overlooked, for example, electoral mechanism necessary to minimize resilient clan loyalties and channel parochial interests toward national objectives. . . As the years passed, nation oriented political parties degenerated into clan, subclan and even one-man parties. By the end of the decade, Somalia was suffering under a general atmosphere of cutthroat competition, corruption, incompetence and irresponsibility.28
In 1969, Commander of the Somali National Army Mohamed Siad Barre led a coup against the government and was President of Somalia for twenty-two years until the collapse of the central government in January 1991.29 Barre was guided by socialist policies throughout his Presidency until the 1980s, when he sought the financial aid of the United States. Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, a country with geo-strategic value in both the Cold War and in the Global War on Terror. The Cold War found Somalia being supported by both the USSR and the United States. As John Predergrast asserted,

During the Cold War, the official deference accorded to state sovereignty was an important element in Western aid-related sponsorship of anti-communist alliances in the Third World. The effects of internal war were as real then s they are now but donor states were inclined to disregard evidence of human rights abuses on the part of allies and potential client states while highlighting those of adversaries.30

The United States and Somalia have a complicated history of political and military engagement from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror. Somalia’s connections with Al-Qaeda and the rise and fall of the Islamic Court Union are a few examples of the security threats present in and from Somalia. The use of the Somalia state in direct connection to United States Embassy bombings complicating the security interests in the Horn of Africa for the United States. In particular, the policies and military strategy utilized to respond to the collapsed state of Somalia.

This paper will address the questions of state collapse and the challenge of engagement for state-centric policies and frameworks, focusing on Somalia and American engagement in the post-9/11 era. Authors Boas and Jennings argue, “‘[s]tate failure’ assumes all states are constituted and function in the same way: on a spectrum from good to bad.”31 In short, if a country is a liberal democratic state then you are positively perceived, but if a country is defined as a “failed state” that represents a weak security situation for not only the “failed” country but also for other countries’ security, specifically liberal democratic countries. The realist viewpoint of “failed states” views such states as an anomaly in international relations. State failure is perceived as an end and thus the state is viewed through a zero-sum approach that directly impacts analysis and policy response.32

The post-September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have resulted in failed states being rediscovered. President George W. Bush’s administration has directly established the link between failed states and terrorism since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America explicitly states, “America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones.”33 The United States Department of State Office for the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) further articulates the threat of failed states that communicates a clear link between failed states and terrorism threats.

Failing and post-conflict states pose one of the greatest national and international security challenges of our day, threatening vulnerable populations, their neighbors, our allies, and ourselves. Struggling states can provide breeding groups for terrorism, crime, trafficking, and humanitarian catastrophes, and can destabilize and entire region. Experience shows that managing conflict, particularly internal conflict, is not a passing phenomenon. It has become a mainstream part of our foreign policy.34

Fundamental changes in American foreign policy are required for addressing the complexity of failed states and acknowledging failed states impact on, not only, American security but global security. The “Mogadishu effect” in United States Foreign Policy has transitioned from Operation Restore Hope which resulted in a lack of engagement with failed states to the new “transformational democracy” to “today’s greatest security challenge.”

The Failure of Somalia

The problem of state-failure is one of the greatest political and humanitarian challenges facing the world in the twenty-first century. . . Although the problem of state failure has moved to the forefront of international concerns in recent years, we know very little about what to do in situations where it has occurred.35


In the post-9/11 world, the significance of Somalia and the Horn of Africa has attracted intense scrutiny as a security threat. The Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force reported that, “[t]he U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) recently announced that it anticipates high back-migration into the Horn of trained jihadists.”36 The appeal of a failed state for operations, Somalia in particular, are porous borders, political instability offering safe haven, and transit points for terrorists and other criminal elements. The United States Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism reported:

Somalia’s lack of a functioning central government, protracted state of violent instability, long unguarded coastline, porous borders, and proximity to the Arabian Peninsula made it a potential location for international terrorists seeking a transit or launching point to conduct operations elsewhere.37
Early evidence suggests that Somalia is being used as a terrorist safe haven.38 The United States State Department has identified numerous terrorist groups operating within Somalia such as the Harakat al-Islah (al-Islah), Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ), Majma Ulimadda Islaamka ee Soomaaaliya (Majma’), Takfir wal-Hijra (al-Takfir), and the al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI).39 The International Crisis Group reported there is a “rise of a new ruthless, independent jihadi network with links to Al-Qaeda. The group is based in lawless Mogadishu and led by a young militia leader trained in Afghanistan.”40 This particular group is linked to the murder of four foreign aid workers in Somaliland. The combination of Al-Qaeda, al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI), and a new group associated with Al-Qaeda operating within Somalia is a pressing issue for security and counter-terrorism efforts. The AIAI has increased activities throughout Somalia and is gaining influence through its membership. Scholar Dr. J. Peter Pham argued:

In short, the chaotic situation across the entire former territories of the defunct Somali Democratic Republic (with the exception of Somaliland) created the conditions for the advent of the Islamists of al-Itihaad in the same way that the Taliban of Afghanistan arose out of that country’s anarchy as a force for order amid factious leaders and their rapacious militias. . . So while these circumstances the Somali people’s embrace of the undeniable benefits brought by the Islamists does not necessarily imply approval of the al-Itihaad political agenda, it would be delusional to believe that they will not become, however gradually, ideologically and politically influenced by the Islamists’ social programs, which are focused on the long-term, sustained growth of the movement.41

AIAI began operating as a militia-faction during the Barre regime, but has a key difference in that the politically motivated Islamist movement has the ability to “construct a cross-clan and national movement based on the appeal of Islamist ideology as an alternative to a failed nationalism and divisive clanism.”42 AIAI has consolidated power through military movement, social, political and economic methods ranging from establishing Shari’a courts to remittance companies.43 It should be noted that the country is not completely rife with jihadi militants. The International Crisis Group and scholar Ken Menkhaus argue that such militant Islamic leanings are among a minority of the population. The International Crisis Group argued:

The notoriety and effectiveness of these militants has contributed to perceptions of Somalia as a breeding ground for Islamist extremism and a hub of terrorist activity. A March 2005 UN report portrayed Somalia as home to an

"army" of jihadi fighters supported by a network of at least seventeen terrorist training camps.3 In reality, jihadism is an unpopular, minority trend among Somali Islamists. Al-Itihaad's military wing has been largely dismantled, the new jihadi network's effective membership probably is in the tens rather than the hundreds, and ranking al-Qaeda operatives in Somalia probably number less than half a dozen. Several Western countries host larger and more sophisticated jihadi networks.44
The Council on Foreign Relations, the United States Department of State and academic scholars have written extensively on the link between terrorists and Somalia. American politicians and analysts have asserted that the attacks on the U.S. Embassies in both Kenya and Tanzania were launched and planned from Somalia by those now in power.45 The United States lacks a solid public policy toward Somalia. The alleged United States Somalia policy was to support the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, a group formulated by Mogadishu’s most powerful warlords.46 Newspapers have speculated the suspected link between the United States and Somali warlords, but have such assertions have not been confirmed by any United States government official.47 These rumors do not improve the image of American policy towards Somalia for Somali citizens.

Several newspapers have asserted that the United States has aligned itself with warlords in Somalia to address the security situation.48 Author Eben Kaplan argues:

The amount of U.S. support for the warlords, if any, is small. There are no U.S troops in Somalia, and an arms embargo forbids providing weapons. Experts say the United States is likely communicating with the warlords and possibly providing them with some money. Even this level of involvement has caused some discontent within the TFIs. As Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told the Washington Post, “we would prefer that the U.S. work within the transitional government and not with criminals.”49

In the time period from June to December 2006, a militia run by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) defeated warlords in Mogadishu. The UIC is a body that includes a range of Islamic ideologies and Islamic groups, but a major concern is that extremists “have been rapidly consolidating their influence with the courts.”50 The concern for the United States with these new events in Somalia is the possibility of terrorists receiving safe havens from the Union of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu and other areas in the country where the Courts operate. Mogadishu businessmen financially fund the Union of Islamic Courts, a network of eleven Islamic Courts, but the funding and military arms of the Islamic courts militia is ambiguous. The BBC News and CNN report that Saudi Arabia and many other wealthy foreign investors have supported the Islamic Court militia. The weapons supplied to the Islamic Court militia are reportedly from Eritrea, while Ethiopia supplies arms to the Somali interim government.51 The fighting between warlords and the Islamic Court militia has resulted in the defeat and exile of many key warlords.

The BBC News reports that Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, Bashir Ragge, and Muse Sudi Yalahow have fled Mogadishu to El Bur in central Somalia. Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdid is reported to have fled the city after a defeat by the Islamists. Omar Finish is reported to have pledged allegiance to the courts and is still in Mogadishu.52 The Union of Islamic Courts and the Islamic Court militia have succeeded where the United Nations and United States failed, defeating the warlords in Mogadishu. The defeat of warlords affords more security for Somali citizens, but raises political and security concerns for the region and world.

The rise of the Islamic Courts and the Islamic Court militia with the weak Transitional Federal Government elevated several security concerns. As scholar Ken Menkhaus articulated:

There are several distinct threats which radical Islam may pose in Somalia. The first is the negative impact of ascendant political Islam as an alternative system of governance. . . A second concern is over the possibility of Somali Islamists engaging in direct acts of terrorism.53

The permeable political climate of Somalia has made it ripe for an increase in presence and power by the Union of Islamic Courts in its affairs. This raises a concern for the legitimacy and power of the Transitional Federal Government. The leadership of the Islamic Courts is in the consultative council, or majlis al-shura, which is the political and spiritual body of the Courts. The new leader of the consultative council is Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, a man suspected of being an Al-Qaeda collaborator by the United States Department of State.54 Somali first minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has stated that, “Talking to Islamic Leader is like having discussions with Osama Bin Laden.”55 Aweys is a former army colonel and Muslim scholar who has denied links to Al-Qaeda. The Chairmen of the Union of Islamic Courts, Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed, sent a letter sent to the international community, stating, “[w]e categorically deny and reject any accusation that we are harboring any terrorists or supporters of terrorism in the areas where the courts operate.”56 The letter continues with an explanation of goals such as a system of governance established, rehabilitation and rebuilding of Somalia and the desire for an establishment of a relationship with the international community.57 Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the Islamic Courts consultative body, the majlis al-shura, did not sign the letter. It is unclear whether Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has more power than Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed and is a situation to monitor.58

Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman, stated that the United States will not work with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aways. “Certainly, of course, we’re not going to work with somebody like that,” McCormack said. “And of course, we would be troubled if this is an indicator of the direction the group would go in.”59 The challenge facing current policymakers is which political power will be accepted and successful in Somalia. According to Newsweek, an ICU propaganda video titled “Punishment of the Converts” features pro-terrorist rhetoric by ICU’s key military leadership and shows an Islamist training camp in Somalia.60 In an copy obtained by Newsweek, the Islamic militia’s internal newspaper ran the headline: “TERRORISM, EXTREMISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM ARE PART OF ISLAM AND GOOD.”61 The role of the Islamic Courts, Islamic Court militia and the leadership of Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys are new security issues in Somalia.

The rise and collapse of the Islamic Courts presents concerns of a possible regional war in the Horn of Africa.62 The UIC militia advanced to within 60 miles of Baidoa to establish a Shari’a court causing Ethiopia to send troops to aid the Transitional Federal Government.63 Francois Lonseny Fall, the United Nations special representative for Somalia, warned the UN Security Council that, “if something is not done now, this conflict might have some regional dimension”.64 The conflict now has regional and international dimensions, with Ethiopia conducting counter-insurgency operations with the support of the United States. The United States is supporting a proxy war in the Horn of Africa under the auspices of combating terrorists in the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

The International Somalia Contact Group, the United States, African Union and Arab League have been encouraging dialogue between all parties, including the UIC and TFI, in Somalia.65 The dialogue failed resulting in military action being taken by Ethiopia directly against the Islamic Courts Union. This engagment resulted in the Islamic Courts losing power and control of Mogadishu in December 2006. The current security situation is focused on counter-insurgency against Islamist fighters still in Somalia. The political situation is ever evolving in Somalia as it represents a permeable case study. Somalia’s political situation is never stable and sadly looks to be the case for the near future.66The rise of the Islamic Courts, the Islamic Courts militia, the leadership of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aways, and the fragility of the Transitional Federal Government makes Somalia a virtual state for the study of failed states, terrorism and American Foreign Policy.

Implications of Proxy Wars, GWOT, and Failed States

T.E. Lawrence stated that, “. . . to make war upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.”67 Ethiopian troops have been engaged in what has been described as counter-insurgency against Islamist insurgents. The United States is supporting this effort, but in limited avenues. The United States has opted to work with non-state actors as a counter-terrorism strategy. Ken Menkhaus found, “[t]hese local partners included businessmen and militia leaders, including some who arguably could be considered warlords…[m]aking matters worse, the various American allies were local rivals and their militias frequently clashed, so there was little collaboration among. US agents pressed their local partners to work together.” The lack of collaboration and developing security situation presents several challenges for stability and reconstruction efforts.

In an interview, Le Sage argued that Ethiopian troops were facing an insurgency. Le Sage, an assistant professor for terrorism and counterterrorism at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, argued:

And Ethiopian troops, the sooner they get out, in many respects, the better. It will prevent the Somali people from rising up against the Ethiopians as an occupying force and the beginning of an insurgency. That insurgency could just be a clan insurgency, a public insurgency against Ethiopia, but it will definitely be something that remnants of the al-Qaida cells and the Union of Islamic Courts would try to take advantage of.68

The resulting proxy war has prompted many to argue that America’s strategy is losing “hearts and minds” in the Global War on Terror in Somalia. On January 8, 2007 the first United States air strike on three suspected Al Qaeda operatives in Southern Somalia. This has been the mark of the first projection of American military force in Somalia since Operation Restore Hope.69 “Failed States” do not present ideal terrorist safe havens, rather it is weak states with some forms of infrastructure and security. On the surface analysis, such states are ideal but the chronic instability and shifting political and security alliances make such states not ideal safe havens for terrorist activities. In the case of Somalia and the clan system, in order to operate effectively, alliances with clan leaders must be made which can alienate other clans leading to assured vulnerability. Somalia has not yet become a terrorist haven and camp, rather the space has been used as a transit point for terrorist activities in the cases of the terrorist bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August 1998. There have been no other linked terrorist attacks or acts of terrorism from the geographic space of Somalia. The security situation in Somalia, in the case of the rise and fall of the ICU, presents other nations challenges as the “state” of Somalia exists only on maps, merely a virtual reality not reflecting reality.

Bibliography-Work in progress

1 Mark Bowden Black Hawk Down (Great Britain: Bantam Press, 1999).

2 A term used by the author Jean Germain Gros, “Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the New World Order: decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Haiti”, Third World Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 461

3 Robert I. Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 1.

4 Helman, GB and Ratner, SR, ‘Saving failed states’, Foreign Policy, 89, 1992-1993, pp. 3-20 and Lymon, Princeton, ‘The rise and fall and possible revival of international trusteeship’, Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 31 (1), 1993, pp. 96-110.

5 Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace, “The Failed States Index”, May/June 2006,

CAST is “. . . is a flexible model that has the capability to employ a four-step trend-line analysis, consisting of (1) rating 12 social, economic, and political/military indicators; (2) assessing the capabilities of five core state institutions considered essential for sustaining security; (3) identifying idiosyncratic factors and surprises; and (4) placing countries on a conflict map that shows the risk history of countries being analyzed.”

Foreign Policy, “The Failed States Index” May/June 2006,

6 The Fund for Peace, “The Twelve Indicators of CAST”,

7 Pinar Bilgan and Adam David Morton, Historicising representations of ‘failed states’: beyond the cold-war annexation of the social sciences? Third World Quarterly,Vol. 23, No 1, 2002, 56.

8 Robert I. Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 1.

9 Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 44.

10 Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 40.

11 Political goods defined by Robert I. Rotberg as:

“There is a hierarchy of political goods. None is as critical as the supply of security, especially human security . . . The state’s prime function is to provide that political good of security—to prevent cross-border invasions and infiltrations, and any loss of territory; to eliminate domestic threats to or attacks upon the national order and social structure; to prevent crime and any related dangers to domestic human security; and to enable citizens to resolve their differences with the state and with their fellow inhabitants without recourse to arms or other forms of physical coercion. The deliver of a range of other desirable political goods becomes possible when a reasonable measure of security has been sustained.

Robert I. Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 3.

12 Robert I. Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 4.

13 Jean-Germain Gros, “Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the New World Order: decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Haiti”, Third World Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 461.

14A.J Christopher, “‘Nation-states’, ‘quasi-states’, and ‘collapsed-states’, in contemporary Africa”, GeoJournal, 1997 p. 92.

15 Robert I. Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 6-9.

16 Timothy Raeymaekers, “Collapse or Order? Questioning State Collapse in Africa”, Conflict Research Group, May 2005, p. 3.

17 Jean-Germain Gros, “Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the New World Order: decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Haiti”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 458-461.

“To summarise, in the typology just presented five types of failed states may be identified on the world scene: the anarchic (Somalia and Liberia), the phantom (Zaire), the anaemic (Haiti and Cambodia under different circumstances), the captured (Rwanda), and the aborted (Bosnia).

Jean-Germain Gros, “Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the New World Order: decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Haiti”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 461.

18 Jean-Germain Gros, “Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the New World Order: decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Haiti”, Third World Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 461.

19 Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 10-11.

20 I. William Zartman, Cowardly Lions: Missed Opportunities to Prevent Deadly Conflict and State Collapse, London: Lynne Rienner Publisher, 2005), 7.

21 David Carment, “Assessing state failure: implications for theory and policy”, Third World Quarterly Vol. 24, No. 3, p. 414.

22 Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 21.

Jackson describes positive sovereignty as, “Positive sovereignty likewise presupposes capabilities which enable governments to be their own masters: it is a substantive rather than a formal condition. A positively sovereign government is one which not only enjoys rights of nonintervention and other international immunities but also possesses the wherewithal to provide political goods for its citizens.

Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 29.

23 Timothy Raeymaekers, “Collapse or Order? Questioning State Collapse in Africa”, Conflict Research Group, Working Paper No 1 May 2005, p. 1.

24 Interview by author, Kuala Lumper, Malaysia, August 2007.

25 A clan is defined as:

A large group of people believed to be descendents through males of a common ancestor whose name is also the name of the clan. Several clans constitute a clan-family (q.v.), and each clan is divided into a number of lineages (q.v.).

Nina J. Fitzgerald, Somalia: Issues, History and Bibliography, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2002, p. 75.

26 Nina J. Fitzgerald, Somalia: Issues, History and Bibliography, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2002, p. 1.

27 I. William Zartman, Cowardly Lions: Missed opportunities to Prevent Deadly Conflict and State Collapse, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2005, p. 77.

28 Hussein M. Adam, ‘Somalia: Militarism, Warlordism or Democracy?” Review of African Political Economy, No. 54, (Jul 1992), pp. 16-17.

29 Ken Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 16-17.

30 Mark Duffield and John Prendergast, “Sovereignty and Intevention after the Cold War: Lessons from the Emergency Relief Desk”, Middle East Report, No. 187/188, (Mar.-Jun., 1994) p. 10

31 Morten Boas and Kathleen M. Jennings, “Insecurity and Development: The Rhetoric of the ‘Failed State’”, The European Journal of Development, p. 385.

32 Zero-sum approach is defined in this paper as, “[t]echnically, where one party’s gain is the other’s loss we should refer to constant-sum conflicts, and where both can lose or both can gain, no-constant –sum. However, the zero-sum and non-zero-sum language has passed into general usage, though it is less precise.”

Oliver Ramsbotham. Tom Woodhouse and Hugh Miall, (ed.), Contemporary Conflict Resolution Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005, p. 332.

33 National Security Council, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,

34 The United States Department of State, “About S/CRS”

35 Jens Meierhenrich, “Forming States after Failure”, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 153.

36 Council on Foreign Relations, “More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa”, Independent Task Force Report No. 56, 2006,

p. 55.

37 United States Department of State, “2005 Country Reports on Terrorism”, Chapter 5-Country Reports: Africa Overview, p. 6,

38 Eben Kaplan, “Somalia’s Terrorist Infestation”, Council on Foreign Relations, June 6‏, 2006,

39 United States Department of State, “2005 Country Reports on Terrorism”, Chapter 5-Country Reports: Africa Overview, p. 7,

For more detailed information regarding these groups, please refer to the

United States Department of Sate, “2005 Country Reports on Terrorism,” Chapter 8-Foreign Terrorist Organizations,

40 International Crisis Group, “Counter-Terrorism in Somalia: Losing Hearts and Minds?” Africa Report No. 95, 11 July 2005, p. i.

41 Dr. J. Peter Pham, “Somalia: Expanding crisis in the Horn of Africa” Testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations and International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, June 29, 2006, p. 5.

42 Andre Le Sage, “Prospects for Al Itihad & Islamist Radicalism in Somalia”, Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 28, No. 89, p. 473.

43 Andre Le Sage, “Prospects for Al Itihad & Islamist Radicalism in Somalia”, Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 28, No. 89, pp. 473-476.

44 International Crisis Group, “Counter-Terrorism in Somalia: Losing Hearts and Minds?”, Africa Report No. 95, 11 July 2005, p. 1.

45 The Honorable Chris Smith, “Opening Statement”, “Somalia: Expanding crisis in the Horn of Africa” Testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations and International Operations, June 29, 2006, p. 1.

46 John Predergast, “More than Counter-Terrorism: Rethinking U.S. Policy toward Somalia”, Testimony to the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations, June 29, 2006.

47 Joseph Winter, “Is Somalia next for ‘war on terror’?”, BBC News, June 7, 2006,

48 Such examples are: BBC News, and the Washington Post.

49 Eben Kaplan, “Somalia’s Terrorist Infestation”, Council on Foreign Relations, June 6‏, 2006,

50 Dr. Saad Noor, “Somaliland: Past, Present and Future” Testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations and International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, June 29, 2006, p. 6.

51 BBC News, “Q & A: Somali Islamist Advance”,

The Associated Press, “Somalia says Eritrea sending arms to militants”,

52 BBC News, “Q & A: Somali Islamist Advance”,

53 Ken Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and Threat of Terrorism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 55.

54 The Associated Press, “New Somali Leader Tied to Al Qaeda?”, June 24, 2006,

55 Shabelle Media Network, “Govt Compares Sheik Aweys with Bin Laden”, July 10, 2006,

56 Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed, “We Deny That We Are Harboring Terrorists”, Time Magazine, June 06, 2006,,8599,1201291,00.html

57 Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed, “We Deny That We Are Harboring Terrorists”, Time Magazine, June 06, 2006,,8599,1201291,00.html

58 Joseph Winter, “Profile: Somalia’s Islamist leader”, BBC News, June 30, 2006,

59 Matt Smith and Elise Labott, “U.S. Won’t Deal with Somalia Islamist”, June 26, 2006,

60Rod Nordland,“Somalia: An African Taliban?”, Newsweek, July 31, 2006, p. 45.

61Rod Nordland, “Somalia: An African Taliban?”, Newsweek, July 31, 2006, p. 45.

62 BBC News, “Somalia warning for Horn rivals”,

63 The Associated Press, “Ethiopia troops cross into Somalia”, July 20, 2006, and

64 United Nations Press Conference, “Press Conference by Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Somalia” June 19, 2006,

65 Norway Mission to the United Nations, “Norway chairs the International Somalia Contact Group”,

66 News articles concerning the shift in political landscape have appeared in newspapers almost every day during Summer 2006.

67 T.E. Lawrence, “Evolution of a Revolt”,

68 PBS Online Newshour, “U.S. Launches Airstrike in Southern Somalia”

69 Ken Menkhaus, “The Crisis in Somalia: Tragedy in Five Acts”, African Affairs, Vol. 106, No. 204, p. 368.

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