Moderator: Right. So you think it’s possible to separate the foreign fighters? The foreign Al-Qaeda linked operatives, I guess, from the Somali population itself when you think Somalis make that distinction and say okay, it’s alright to take out these guys but we will at least give our tacit approval of that but if you go any closer and trying to take out the local guys, is a different matter entirely?

Bronwyn: It absolutely is. It sort of it edges on to a very important point about the way that we’re describing the Shabaab in Somalia. The Shabaab is not a monolithic movement. It’s composed of a bunch of thugs, businessmen, clan interest and there are only really a few people at the very top who are foreigners who are linked to Al-Qaeda and there’s only a small core of people who really have transnational goals. The vast majority of the Shabaab are opportunistic and nationalist actors and the United States when it’s engaged in Afghanistan and when it’s engaged in Iraq has gone through a vital process of learning. In the Iraq conflict in Sutter city for example, the US reached a turning point when it reached out to militants that it figured out were extremist but not transnationally oriented. In Afghanistan, the US is making a similar evolution and thinking it’s now reaching out to low and mid level numbers of the Taliban and saying, you know these guys, they don’t like us maybe they have extremist views but they’re not our enemies. And I think in Somalia, the US needs to make a similar distinction between people we don’t like and people who are our enemies that we have to fight a war with. And I think that if we do that, the conflict in Somalia from the US perspective will start looking manageable and very small indeed.

Moderator: To push you on this point yet, do you think again this is a rather an optimistic’s strategy to assume that Shabaab will just sort of fall apart and would just disintegrate just provided the US takes a step backwards? I mean, can we talk for example about the humanitarian situation right now in Somalia, it is notable recently that in the southern part of the country where Al-Shabaab has its sort of strong holds. The world food program has had to admit defeat essentially and say we cannot deliver anymore. We can’t deliver food aids to this part of the country because of interference from Al-Shabaab that demanding bribes. They won’t let women workers operate here and the staffs are under threat of attack and violence, so all of these suggest that the movement is becoming more rather than less extreme. Is it not a danger of disengagement leading to more extremism that this movement could just kind of spiral out of control?

Bronwyn: Yeah. I mean, I would say that certainly any strategy in Somalia has risks. I can’t think of anything that the international community has done in the country that hasn’t backfired in a fairly grievous way, and I think that an initial risk of the strategy would be that for a month or six months or a year it would appear that the Shabaab was consolidating in gaining ground most likely. It would take a certain period of time for the cracks to really make themselves felt. If that said, the current policy in which we’ve identified the Shabaab and the whole of the Shabaab as a terrorist group has lead to the situation where the world food program which is providing desperately needed food assistance to millions of Somalis. I mean, approximately 40% of the population needs this food aid in order to survive but the world food program has been forced to stop its operations because of fears that some of this food relief is making its way to armed militant groups. WFP has its own problems with the Shabaab, they don’t make it easy to operate but those problems have always been there and it’s a really good chance that the WFP would be able to negotiate with the Shabaab and resume its activities during the normal course of events, it’s been an ongoing problem. Instead what we have is a situation where food aid is not getting through, and the stoppage of food aid, and the fact that so many people are starving as a result of it is actually yet another thing that’s going to increase radicalization and make the Somalis feel that they are victim of the war on terror and not the beneficiaries of US efforts to prevent these bad guys from taking hold, and that’s a really big problem for US policy, this particularly bad when you think that while the US is concerned about food finding its way into the bad guys hands, armed shipments to the TFG are continuing and we know very well that many of those arms are finding their way on to the black market where they’re paying [IB] by the Shabaab. So it’s a really tough, I think. It puts the US in a very an enviable position to say food no, guns yes. Yeah.

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