The more Al-Shabaab can destabilize the region, the more opportunity it has to expand its influence. That is seems to be the reason behind recent bombings in Uganda and threats against Kenya and Rwanda. Such acts makes them seem larger and strong than they really are. Fear of them is becoming an every growing reality. (From The Economic Advantage of al-Shabaab, Horn of Africa: The Global Affairs Blog Network)
In the U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism, 2009, (published August 2010) it was reported that Somalia continues to be highly destabilized and therefore fertile for terrorist training and deployment throughout the horn of Africa. Al-Shabaab is not alone in Somalia but al-Qaeda and a handful of indigenous Islamic extremist groups have commands and networks in the country.
On January 7th, 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the world leaders to provide combatants, weapons, and logistic support to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to prevent foreign fighters and militants from turning the region into the “next stronghold of international terrorism.” The Secretary General went on to say, “The presence of foreign extremist fighters in Somalia is a constant reminder of the high risk that the Horn of Africa is rapidly becoming the next front in global efforts against international terrorism.” (UN New Center: Horn of Africa could become new launch pad for global terrorism, Ban warns)
The African Union’s AMISOM (African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia) has 20,000 troops, with air and navel capabilities, including which it will deploy in stages in Somalia.
The United States Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was established in 2002 to use a indirect approach to counter violent extremism in the area. Currently, the mission does not play an active role in terms of military operations, but it works with the militaries of partner nations to build their own capacity to confront these problems. (from Global Security Org.)
It is yet to be seen if the United States and African Union efforts will have the desired effect of muting Al-Shabaab. For the moment that seems unlikely. The traditional centers for terrorist training and deployment may well be in transition from the Middle East to the Horn of Africa.
If the transition does take place, the people of the region already living with life threatening struggles in the midst of poverty could be facing a new and even greater danger.