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Somalia and Long Range Threat Assessments
One of the most astonishing statements in today's Washington Post look at Somalia comes from John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

Negroponte said that "I don't think there are hard and fast views," on al Qaeda in Somalia, noting that Somalia "has come back on the radar screen only fairly recently," and the question is whether the Islamist government "is the next Taliban," he said. "I don't think I've seen a good answer."

It is hard to know what "only recently" means as far as being on the intelligence communty radar screen, but it has been clear for well over a year that Islamist groups were making a move to take over. It is clear for almost eight months that they have, in fact, defeated U.S.-backed forces, imposed _sharia_ law on much of the country and moved to spread the Islamist revolution.

I know that, in the field, intelligence was being reported extensively. But, like much of this type of activitiy in the world's black holes, in the absence of a long-term threat assessment, war gaming and over-the-horizon planning, it may simply never have made it up the food chain.

There is no question the situation in Somalia is deeply complicated, with clans, sub-clans and family relationships all playing significant roles in shaping the current situation. It is also true that many are using the banner of Islamic revolution to achieve personal goals perhaps unrelated to radical Islams. But the fact remains that the result is the strengthening of the most radical elements in the Islamist front, with most moderates out or reduced to insignificance.

I think the second part of Negroponte's statement represents a serious misreading of Islamist intentions, and hence the interest of Osama bin Laden and others in developments there.

There is ample evidence, in the form of written and public statements, both historic and current, that one of the primary goals of the Islamic-jihadist movement, shared by groups like the international Muslim Brotherhood, is to establish an Islamic caliphate. The concept is to give the soldiers of Allah a physical place to proclaim his kingdom, and the seed of a new conquest of once-held Islamic lands.

Almost any piece of land under strict Islamist control meets that criteria, the beginning of what Islam needs to re-establish its earthly rule. It is not an abstract policy discussion but a theological imperative.

From what the _jihadists_ themselves tell us that this of paramount importance, and one of the causes of deep anger toward al Qaeda for the 9-11 attacks by other Islamist groups (and within al Qaeda). The attacks cost them the caliphate in Afghanistan. Hence the need to establish a new one, and the need to expand it.

So now Somalia is poised for war with Ethiopia, armed by Russian and European arms deals who sense the profit potential of a new war. The threat to the region is spreading rapidly, a potential "third front" that _jihadists_ have written about as necessary to sap the U.S. military and political will.

This may explain why bin Laden, in July, taped a statement calling on Somalis to begin preparing for regional war. He recalled the 1994 withdrawal of U.S. military forces after a warlord attack killed 18 U.S. troops, saying, "This time, victory will be far easier."

All of this is public knowledge, and should give ample information for those who red team these types of scenarios and play them out, for the purpose of being able to predict and present options on likely (and unlikely) outcomes. But that is not happening in any significant way as related to Islamist groups around the world.

For U.S intelligence to dismiss the concept of establishing a caliphate, or not understand the significance of the concept to the Islamist project, is either great bluffing or deeply disturbing.

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