I haven’t seen anyone else write about this, but David Kurtz described a conference call with senior Administration officials that sounded awful belligerent about the terrorist group al-Shabab. As in “next war comin’” kind of belligerent:
The administration official would not rule out a change in U.S. policy to provide military assistance to the transitional government in Somalia, which is battling an al Shabaab insurgency. “We’re taking stock of recent events to determine if this is now a trend that al Shabaab will be on and will take all appropriate measures,” the official said.
Not parsing words, the official described al Shabaab as a “group of murderous thugs.”
Purported links between al Shabaab and al Qaeda heighten U.S. concerns that al Shabaab may have the means to go along with its expressed intent of striking U.S. targets. Al Shabaab has ties with both al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda in East Africa, the official said. “Al Qaeda-Arabian Peninsula is probably the most operationally active of any of the al Qaeda franchises in the region,” in this senior official’s assessment. There are a large number of Somali refugees in Yemen and a lot of traffic back and forth between those two countries, according to the official.
“Its agenda is very similar to al Qaeda’s agenda,” the official said.
On top of that, Barack Obama personally condemned the bombings in Uganda, which are condemnable, and added this:
“On the one hand, you have a vision of an Africa on the move, an Africa that is unified, an Africa that is modernizing and creating opportunities; and on the other hand, you’ve got a vision of al Qaeda and al Shabaab that is about destruction and death,” Obama said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corp. “And I think it presents a pretty clear contrast in terms of the future that most Africans want for themselves and their children.”
Let me be clear. The bombings were a horrific crime and those responsible should be brought to justice. And Obama’s statement is correct, as far as it goes, and should be highlighted.
But I get the sense that there’s a bit more being proposed here. Keep in mind that, in this case, the Bush Administration really did have a lot to do with the state of Somalia today. They aligned with Ethiopia to overthrow the Islamic Courts Union in 2006, and as a result ushered in a fragile transitional government that gave rise to the al-Shabab insurgency. The wrong lesson that the Obama Administration should take from this terrible Bush foreign policy blunder would be to start providing “military assistance” to the transitional government, leading to a mission creep that could open up a new front in the so-called war on terror.
UPDATE: You can now read this entire background briefing here.