As ISIS Struggles for Influence in Somalia, al-Shabab Remains the Main Threat

As ISIS Struggles for Influence in Somalia, al-Shabab Remains the Main Threat
Somali soldiers at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack, which al-Shabab quickly claimed responsibility for, Mogadishu, Somalia, Jan, 2, 2017 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

The so-called Islamic State received some modest good news recently from Somalia, in what has otherwise been a dismal stretch of losses for the jihadi group. In October, a small militant faction aligned with the Islamic State took and held Qandala, a port town in northern Somalia, for more than a month before withdrawing. It was the first time a group linked to the Islamic State has occupied a town in Somalia.

Talk of the Islamic State dominated much of the debate on counterterrorism issues during the U.S. presidential campaign. Yet as concerning as the Islamic State’s Qandala operation is, President-elect Donald Trump should not be distracted from what remains the primary threat in Somalia. Al-Shabab, the terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida that has been ensconced in Somalia for years, is far more dangerous than the Islamic State is likely to ever be in the country. The incoming Trump administration should commit to fighting it with determination.

Somalia is more than 8,000 miles from the United States, but it has rightfully been an American security concern for decades. The violence and instability there since the late-1980s have been a constant strain on the fragile East Africa region. That volatility has made Somalia a sanctuary for militants, including several al-Qaida members involved in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Al-Shabab once had scores of foreign fighters in its ranks, including dozens of American citizens, leaving the U.S. vulnerable to all the risks associated with having citizens fighting with a committed and competent terrorist group. Despite a years-long regional campaign to wipe it out, al-Shabab remains a threat in Somalia and beyond, as it has been behind terrorist attacks in neighboring Kenya and Djibouti and nearby Uganda.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.