In August of 2011, the United States had backed an African peacekeeping force to deny the infamous terror group Al-Shabaab from gaining a foothold in the heart of East Africa. The operation was deemed primarily successful, being that the force dispelled the terror group from Mogadishu as well as set the stage for the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohhamud.
In 2012, Kenyan infantry joined forces with the peacekeeping force to push the Shabaab out of the port city of Kismayo, again successful. It was believed that a long-awaited peacetime had finally come to Somalia. Just last year, the Obama administration stated, “Somalia is a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself."
If only it were that easy.
Since the September 11 attacks, the United States has maintained a military presence within Somalia aiming to capture any members of Al-Qaeda who may have been responsible for the attacks. It has not been until recently that United States foreign policy has changed focus to eradicate Shabaab. Due to the growing unpopularity of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the United States government sought to keep it's Somalia operations out of the public eye.
Unfortunately, Shabaab has been gaining strength as they patiently wait, building up supplies in the process. Just recently, the Shabaab attacked the United Nation's Development Program Office in Mogadishu. In addition, the Shabaab has infiltrated the Somali government and has been gaining valuable finances through the illegal sale of charcoal. In fact, the United Nations has reported that the Shabaab is approximately 5,000 strong and, "remains arguably intact in terms of operational readiness, chain of command, discipline and communications ability."
In an effort to combat this, United States intelligence agencies have been working with and enhancing the intelligence communities of Somalia. The United States as well as Prescott Support Co. and RAM Air Services have increased their clandestine flights by nearly 25% over the course of this year. The flights are believed to being supplying weapons as well as materials for the construction of two buildings at the Puntland Intelligence Service compound. Elements of United States aid has been criticized by the United Nations due to the fact that it has violated various resolutions passed by the international body.
Unfortunately, government corruption has led to members of the Somali intelligence community working with members of the Shabaab. In addition, Kenyan forces in Kismayo have rebelled against troops loyal to the U.S. and have assisted in the Shabaab in charcoal sales. It is clear that Shabaab is buying its time and building up its resources in an effort to be more effective. The current situation within Somalia should demonstrate to the U.S. government that Somalia's problems derive from far more than the Shabaab and that, to be effective, civil society must be built up first.