Obama mulls over what to do with al-Qaeda connected extremists in Somalia

Rick Moran
You have to have some sympathy for our president. You see, he is having a hard time figuring out what to do with terrorists in Somalia.

Many in his administration want to bomb the stuffing out of them before they can hurt us. But our president is a very smart fellow, so we're told, and needs to "mull over" whether we should kill them or try and
understand them:

Al-Shabab, whose fighters have battled Ethiopian occupiers and the tenuous Somali government, poses a dilemma for the administration, according to several senior national security officials who outlined the debate only on the condition of anonymity.

The organization's rapid expansion, ties between its leaders and al-Qaeda, and the presence of Americans and Europeans in its camps have raised the question of whether a preemptive strike is warranted. Yet the group's objectives have thus far been domestic, and officials say that U.S. intelligence has no evidence it is planning attacks outside Somalia.

An attack against al-Shabab camps in southern Somalia would mark the administration's first military strike outside the Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan war zones. The White House discussions highlight the challenges facing the Obama team as it attempts to distance itself from the Bush administration, which conducted at least five military strikes in Somalia. The new administration is still defining its rationale for undertaking sensitive operations in countries where the United States is not at war.

War? What war? We're involved in "Overseas Contingency Operations," remember? And I can certainly understand why killing American traitors might stick in his throat. After all, if we started down that road, the list would be a long one.

The most recent discussion of the issue took place early this week, just before the unrelated seizure of a U.S. commercial ship in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates who are holding the American captain of the vessel hostage for ransom.

The administration has not shied away from missile attacks, launched from unmanned aircraft, in Pakistan, targeting what U.S. intelligence says are top members of al-Qaeda. Evidence against al-Shabab in Somalia is far murkier and the argument in favor of a strike is based on the potential threat the group poses to American interests.

"There is increasing concern about what terrorists operating in Somalia might do," a U.S. counterterrorism official said. According to other senior officials, the camps have graduated hundreds of fighters.

Perhaps our president will make the terrorists eligible for Pell grants. That way, they can "graduate" even more potential killers. Vouchers are out, of course, but maybe he could ask the teacher's unions for some ideas.

Yes, it is always important to take into account what other nations might think if we attack a country we're technically not at war with. But with this kind of attitude, it is almost a certainty that we will be hit again:

"We do not have a credible body of reporting right now to lead us to believe that these American recruits are being trained and instructed to come back to the United States for terrorist acts," he said. "Yet, obviously, we remain concerned about that and watchful for it."


One marvels at such obtuseness. They're training Americans to become terrorists to operate...where? Kenya maybe. They'd sure blend in there. Maybe they could pose as tourists in Somalia. That works. 

Our threshold for determining who or what is a threat to Americans has gone way up. At this point, it's a crap shoot. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Somali extremists won't become a threat, that Americans training with them won't filter back to the US and kill a lot of people, and that they won't be that effective in fighting against the forces of law and order who are seeking to make Somalia appear more like a nation-state and not a conglomeration of war lords.

Aren't you glad we now have a "smart" foreign policy?

You have to have some sympathy for our president. You see, he is having a hard time figuring out what to do with terrorists in Somalia.

Many in his administration want to bomb the stuffing out of them before they can hurt us. But our president is a very smart fellow, so we're told, and needs to "mull over" whether we should kill them or try and
understand them:

Al-Shabab, whose fighters have battled Ethiopian occupiers and the tenuous Somali government, poses a dilemma for the administration, according to several senior national security officials who outlined the debate only on the condition of anonymity.

The organization's rapid expansion, ties between its leaders and al-Qaeda, and the presence of Americans and Europeans in its camps have raised the question of whether a preemptive strike is warranted. Yet the group's objectives have thus far been domestic, and officials say that U.S. intelligence has no evidence it is planning attacks outside Somalia.

An attack against al-Shabab camps in southern Somalia would mark the administration's first military strike outside the Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan war zones. The White House discussions highlight the challenges facing the Obama team as it attempts to distance itself from the Bush administration, which conducted at least five military strikes in Somalia. The new administration is still defining its rationale for undertaking sensitive operations in countries where the United States is not at war.

War? What war? We're involved in "Overseas Contingency Operations," remember? And I can certainly understand why killing American traitors might stick in his throat. After all, if we started down that road, the list would be a long one.

The most recent discussion of the issue took place early this week, just before the unrelated seizure of a U.S. commercial ship in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates who are holding the American captain of the vessel hostage for ransom.

The administration has not shied away from missile attacks, launched from unmanned aircraft, in Pakistan, targeting what U.S. intelligence says are top members of al-Qaeda. Evidence against al-Shabab in Somalia is far murkier and the argument in favor of a strike is based on the potential threat the group poses to American interests.

"There is increasing concern about what terrorists operating in Somalia might do," a U.S. counterterrorism official said. According to other senior officials, the camps have graduated hundreds of fighters.

Perhaps our president will make the terrorists eligible for Pell grants. That way, they can "graduate" even more potential killers. Vouchers are out, of course, but maybe he could ask the teacher's unions for some ideas.

Yes, it is always important to take into account what other nations might think if we attack a country we're technically not at war with. But with this kind of attitude, it is almost a certainty that we will be hit again:

"We do not have a credible body of reporting right now to lead us to believe that these American recruits are being trained and instructed to come back to the United States for terrorist acts," he said. "Yet, obviously, we remain concerned about that and watchful for it."


One marvels at such obtuseness. They're training Americans to become terrorists to operate...where? Kenya maybe. They'd sure blend in there. Maybe they could pose as tourists in Somalia. That works. 

Our threshold for determining who or what is a threat to Americans has gone way up. At this point, it's a crap shoot. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Somali extremists won't become a threat, that Americans training with them won't filter back to the US and kill a lot of people, and that they won't be that effective in fighting against the forces of law and order who are seeking to make Somalia appear more like a nation-state and not a conglomeration of war lords.

Aren't you glad we now have a "smart" foreign policy?