Al-Shabaab, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in a recovering failed state

Authored by: Mala Mustapha

The Routledge Handbook of Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in Africa

Print publication date:  January  2021
Online publication date:  January  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138575394
eBook ISBN: 9781351271929
Adobe ISBN:


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In the Horn of Africa, the Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab remained the most potent threat to regional security, and the group has continued to maintain its allegiance to al-Qaida. This chapter examines the structural causes of Somalia’s long-running conflict—analysing the antecedents from its “state collapse” to the rise of Al-Shabaab and the drive to counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN) interventions. The chapter further examines the current strategies and challenges facing CT-COIN operations against Al-Shabaab in Somalia. It highlights numerous lessons for the newly emerging approaches to CT-COIN in Africa. It argues that lack of legitimate government and coherent plan for CT-COIN, marred by the pursuit of the geostrategic interest of intervening actors such as the United States (US), and AMISOM’s contingent pursuing their national interests, remain a severe challenge for countering Al-Shabaab insurgency in Somalia.

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