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Nairobi attack exposes flawed U.S. terror policies

Kenya mall attack

Kenya mall attack

By Ramy Srour

(IPS) — In the aftermath of the worst terror attack in East Africa in three years, foreign policy scholars here are urging the U.S. government to rethink its counter-terror policy in the region.

Many are suggest the Somali al-Shabab militant organization, reportedly linked to Al Qaeda, may be stronger and better organized than previously thought.

James Jennings, president of the humanitarian aid group Conscience International, commented: “The terrorist attack at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre was evidently a retaliation by al-Shabab for the Kenyan military presence in Somalia since October 2011, and a deliberate signal that they are still a force to be reckoned with.

“It represents a continuation of the violence that has swirled throughout East Africa in the wake of the disintegration of Somalia, a war now increasingly being exported across the region’s borders.”

Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on non-traditional security threats at the Brookings Institution, observed:  “Current U.S. counter-terror strategy in the region has focused primarily on targeted attacks against al-Shabab, while it should have addressed the structural causes of their radicalization,”

High unemployment, a weak Somali economy and widespread corruption as the main reasons behind the radicalization of youths who have joined al-Shabab, she said. U.S. counter-terror efforts have devoted little or no attention to these issues.

The U.S. government delivered a total of 445 million dollars in security aid to Somalia between 2008 and 2011, almost 50 percent of total U.S. aid to the country during that period. What seems to be missing from the U.S. strategy, Felbab-Brown says, is “a real effort to improve the Somali economy and urge the government to foster a broader political inclusion of these youth.”

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