Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Terrorism and failed states

I just love it when I'm right.

A couple of years ago it struck me that terrorists groups don't want to operate from failed states despite what we have heard from dozens of western politicians, military leaders and various 'experts' in the media. It's a point I've been trying to argue since. It is obvious really: failed states are awful places to live - ask a Somali refugee - and things don't work there and that includes for terrorists. Secondly when the government of a state fails, other governments stop respecting its sovereignty and feel free to intervene directly: in the early 1990s the Ethiopians repeatedly entered Somalia to kick the crap out of al-Ittihad al-Islami, a radical group they saw as threatening. After the genocide in Rwanda, the new Rwandan government repeatedly sent troops into the Congo to hunt down Interahamwe militias. Pre-9/11, al-Qaeda wasn't in Afghanistan because it had no government, it did - the Taliban was the de facto government. Bin Laden picked it because it had a government he could co-opt.

So I was chuffed to read in the executive summary of the newest report from West Point's excellent Combatting Terrorism Center the following:
Conventional wisdom suggests that Somalia, a failed state, would be an ideal safe haven for al-Qa’ida. Our analysis, however, indicates that weakly governed regions such as coastal Kenya, not failed states like Somalia, provide an environment more conducive to al-Qa’ida’s activities. In Somalia, al-Qa’ida’s members fell victim to many of the same challenges that plague Western interventions in the Horn. They were prone to extortion and betrayal, found themselves trapped in the middle of incomprehensible (to them) clan conflicts, faced suspicion from the indigenous population, had to overcome significant logistical constraints and were subject to the constant risk of Western military interdiction.
It's always great when the big boys agree with you. The whole report can be downloaded here, or look here at some of the other academically original and important work being done at the CTC.

1 comment:

Karma Police said...

Toby, speaking of Africa - have you read Aidan Hartley's The Zanzibar Chest?