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Cablegate: Somalia - Codel Marshall Scenesetter: How

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 NAIROBI 001801

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR H - PLEASE PASS CODEL MARSHALL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2019
TAGS: PTER MOPS PINR OREP KE SO AF IZ
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - CODEL MARSHALL SCENESETTER: HOW
IRAQ/AFGHANISTAN RELATE TO SOMALIA

Classified By: Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger for reasons 1.4(b) and
(d).

1. (S//NF) Summary: U.S. Embassy Nairobi warmly welcomes
CODEL Marshall and looks forward to your September 1-3 visit.
We note your questions regarding media reports that pressure
in Iraq/Afghanistan has prompted al-Qa,ida to shift some of
its operations/efforts to Somalia (ref A). To address this
question, we have reviewed a body of available information
from press, embassy, and other reporting. The rise of
al-Shabaab and the increase in foreign fighters operating in
Somalia warrants significant concern; several al-Qa,ida
operatives, most notably Saleh Nabhan, have a history of
involvement in East Africa and are currently cooperating with
al-Shabaab leaders and involved in training foreign fighters
in Somalia. We speculate that, due to pressure especially in
Afghanistan, al-Qa,ida could consider Somalia a safer
training ground for foreign fighters, some of whom may intend
subsequently to travel to Afghanistan or Iraq. However,
based on a review of foreign fighter trends and
al-Qa,ida/al-Shabaab operations, we are unable to establish
a strong correlation between recent military pressure on
al-Qa,ida in Iraq and Afghanistan and increased al-Qa,ida
influence/efforts in Somalia. Nonetheless, there is a clear
threat from al-Qaida linked extremists and growing numbers of
foreign fighters in Somalia over the past several years,
which are directly challenging the efforts of the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to establish itself.
End Summary.

Foreign Fighters: Origins and Motivations
-----------------------------------------

2. (S//NF) Many of the foreign fighters currently operating
in Somalia, particularly those who entered to fight the
Ethiopians from 2006-2008, are ethnic Somalis, recruited from
either neighboring countries or diasporas overseas and
motivated in the past by a sense of Somali nationalism,
jihadist propaganda, and the presence of foreign troops in
the country. As widely covered in the press, this includes
North Americans, including at least 20 young men who were
recruited from Minneapolis alone, and recruits from European
countries with large Somali diasporas. Fighters have also
come from within East Africa, most notably Kenya and Sudan.
In addition, press reports and our conversations with Somali
government officials note the presence of an unknown number
of non-Somali fighters from South Asia and the Middle East,
including Pakistanis, Yemenis, and other unidentified
&Arabs8. We speculate some of these fighters may have
chosen, or been directed to, Somalia for training and to gain
jihadist experiences because Somalia currently affords
comparatively greater safety for camps and other sites than
South Asia or Iraq.

3. (S//NF) Neither we nor the Somali government knows
exactly how many foreign fighters are in Somalia, as
reporting varies widely. Statements by Somali government
officials mention several thousand foreigners, which we
believe are exaggerations, or at best estimations based on
fighter sightings and rumors. During the intense May and
June fighting in Mogadishu, there were numerous reports of
foreign fighters interspersed with al-Shabaab, likely
directed from camps in Southern Somalia as reinforcements.
Conversations with Somali political leaders, suggest that as
of mid-August, significant numbers of al-Shabaab forces have
left Mogadishu and dispersed across southern and central
regions of Somalia.

4. (S//NF) The timing and motivation of foreign fighters
arriving in Somalia appears tied to perceptions of internal
Somali dynamics. Our conversations with Somali political
leaders highlight that some foreigners were already present
during the Council of Islamic Courts period, and that the
Ethiopian intervention in 2006 both prompted some foreigners
to flee, and provided motivation for a new influx of foreign
fighters, including ethnic Somalis determined to drive
Ethiopia out of Somalia. Al-Shabaab,s territorial gains in
2008, and the subsequent Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia in
January 2009, prompted additional foreign fighters to join
what was seen as a successful struggle. Regardless of their
initial motivations, these young recruits are subject to
indoctrination and use by violent, often foreign, extremists,

NAIROBI 00001801 002 OF 003


as demonstrated by Shirwa Ahmed, an ethnic Somali from
Minneapolis who became one of the suicide-bombers
perpetrating multiple attacks in Puntland and Somaliland on
October 29, 2009.

5. (S//NF) Al-Qa,ida leaders in early 2009 publicly
endorsed the Somalia &jihad,8 capitalizing on al-Shabaab,s
gains by launching a rhetoric campaign designed to encourage
aspiring jihadis to travel to Somalia, and portraying Somali
President Sharif as illegitimate. In the first half of 2009,
Al-Qa'ida issued several videos praising al-Shabaab,
denouncing President Sharif,s government, and urging
fighters to travel to Somalia. Most notable among these
propaganda efforts was a statement attributed to Usama Bin
Laden titled &Fight on Champions of Somalia,8 and similar
videos by senior al-Qa,ida leaders, including Aymen
al-Zawahiri and Abu-Yahya al-Libi(Ref B).

6. (S//NF) Beyond the public support from al-Qa,ida videos
encouraging foreign fighters to travel to Somalia, there is
scant evidence of significant direct al-Qa,ida financial or
military support for extremists in Somalia, or a foreign
fighter pipeline from Iraq or Afghanistan. Other support for
Somali militants, largely in the form of financing and
smuggled weapons, comes from a variety of sources including
Eritrea and conduits through Eritrea, diaspora remittances,
smuggling from Yemen, and likely business donors in the Gulf
States. These appear to be important external sources of
support for anti-TFG militants in Somalia.

7. (S//NF) Within Somalia, al-Shabaab,s core leaders
cooperate with several al-Qa,ida operatives with a long
history in the region. Most notably, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan,
who was active during the 2006 Council of Islamic Courts, and
currently remains in Somalia, has made a concerted effort to
cooperate with key al-Shabaab leaders, and is actively
recruiting and training foreign fighters. These senior level
extremists are long-time operatives in East Africa, rather
than new arrivals from Iraq or Afghanistan, although the new
influx of foreign jihadis likely contains individuals with
agenda's beyond the Somali insurgency. Nabhan, with his
transnational agenda and involvement in training foreigners,
makes the situation even more dangerous.

Kenyan CT Efforts
-----------------

8. (S//NF) Kenyan security officials have worked to address
the threat of terrorism in Kenya, and are aware of the trend
in foreign fighters and the smuggling of support to
al-Shabaab, some of which transits Kenya. Kenya fears that
al-Shabaab will begin conducting cross border attacks, and
has deployed military forces to positions in eastern and
northern Kenya near the Somali border. Kenya has attempted to
close this border, but the consistent flow of Somali refugees
demonstrates the difficulties inherent to controlling this
long, porous, and largely unregulated border region. In
addition, the TFG and the Government of Kenya are secretly
considering an offensive in the Juba region of Somalia, aimed
at pushing al-Shabaab out of the key port of Kismayo and
neighboring areas in Southern Somalia (reftel C).

Comment
-------

9. (S//NF) While we speculate that al-Qa,ida may consider
Somalia a relatively safer location for foreign fighter
training camps, at this point, al-Qa,ida,s efforts to
&shift8 focus towards Somalia appear to have consisted
primarily of the aforementioned publicity campaign. There is
some indication that vigorous effort by the U.S. and the
Kenyans may have disrupted efforts by al-Qa'ida and the
al-Shabaab to work more closely together. Even as a degree of
increased stability in Iraq, and military pressure in
Afghanistan may have encouraged a small number of foreign
fighters to choose Somalia as an alternate venue for jihad,
we lack evidence of significant numbers of fighters
previously engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan diverting to
Somalia. Likewise, while there are widespread reports of
Pakistani and Arab fighters in Somalia, the timing and influx
of these fighters appear primarily tied to developments in
Somalia and perceptions of Somalia as a suitable location for

NAIROBI 00001801 003 OF 003


jihad. Nevertheless, al-Qa,ida operatives coordinate with
al-Shabaab,s core leaders, and continue to use Somalia as a
staging and training base.
RANNEBERGER

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