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Victory of Islamists in Somalia Show Dangers of Stateless Regions
The victory of radical Islamist militias in Somalia, with the subsequent vow of their leaders establish an Islamist state, highlights the dangers of festering stateless areas and the attractions they present for terrorists, transnational criminal organizations and other armed, non-state groups.

The victory also highlights the limits of U.S. power in those regions of the world. Despite some covert U.S. support for the secular warlords in the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism-the amount is not known-and the clear efforts of the U.S. Joint Combined Task Force-Horn of Africa to keep the situation from ending like this, the possibility again exists of an enclave that will provide al Qaeda and its affiliates with a safe haven to train, practice and seek refuge.

It is not clear what the U.S-backed alliance is or what it really represented except for several of the most violent elements of Somalian society that were not in the Islamist camps. Nor is it entirely clear what the Islamist groups represent other than a desire to install Sharia law across the land.

This is similar to the advantages enjoyed by al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, although the Taliban had a semblance of a central government, while Somalia does not.

Somalia offers virtually no economic benefits to terrorists and other non-state actors, in contrast to Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. What it does offer, however, is proximity to numerous battlefronts where militant Islamists want to fight and where they have a well-developed infrastructure-Kenya (home of the 1998 Embassy bombing), Yemen (the USS Cole), and other nearby points of interest.

The current intelligence apparatus has yet to come up with an effective way of recognizing, never mind effectively combating, this type of non-state threat. There is no political appetite or capacity to put boots on the ground in every potential trouble spot. But nor is there an understanding of how these stateless regions operate, where the pressure points are and how to contain, if not stop, radical Islamist groups from providing sanctuary for themselves and others under their protection.

Nor does there appear to be a clear understanding of how and when to arm and create effective proxies in wars where there are those willing to fight for U.S. interests. We have no intelligence gathering, let alone dominance, in those regions. We simply cannot fight those wars ourselves and expect any meaningful progress.

Liberia is an example of what can happen, where al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Russian organized crime and Viktor Bout all found safe haven there, and prospered. The seeming impossibility of Shi'ite and Sunni groups doing business together is a fiction of our limited understanding, as is the fiction that Israeli and Hezbollah operatives don't go into business together (see the case of Simon Yelnik and Aziz Nassour, among many).

Somalia has no "honey pot" to draw outside entrepreneurs. But Osama bin Laden has had his operatives there before, training the militias that downed the U.S. Blackhawk in 1993. Several of the East African operatives involved in the Embassy bombing hid in Somalia and some continue to do so. A sanctuary can help not only Islamists but give the Islamists something to offer-safety-to other groups on whom they depend for certain commodities-weapons and ammunition.

In the near future we could well look back on the Islamist triumph in Somalia as the beginning of another serious Islamist threat to a much broader world.
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