The Africa Center’s Assistant Director Joshua Meservey argues in the Perspectives on Terrorism journal that Al-Shabaab’s September 2013 terror attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi is not, as some have argued, a sign of the group’s desperation, but is instead evidence of its intact capabilities.
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Meservey warns that al-Shabaab’s most radical leader recently consolidated control of the group and that the AMISOM offensive has stalled, ceding safe havens within the country that allow al-Shabaab to regroup and pursue the insurgency it has launched. But the anti-Shabaab coalition has neither a sufficient number of troops nor the trained counterinsurgent forces required to root out the group. The coalition instead has to find a way for now to keep al-Shabaab off-balance in its sanctuaries, perhaps with elite unit and UAV strikes, while the international community trains adequate indigenous forces. The ultimate solution to the al-Shabaab challenge is the long-term project of building a legitimate Somali government; but in the meantime, Shabaab cannot be allowed to continue to gather its strength to launch more attacks from its safe havens.