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Somalia’s Governance Problem

How Mogadishu’s Stagnation Benefits al-Shabab

A Somali traffic policeman stands guard near the scene of a suicide car bomb explosion outside the traffic police headquarters in Somalia's capital Mogadishu May 9, 2016. Feisal Omar / Reuters

As of late, Somalia’s counterterrorism efforts have enjoyed some notable successes. Security services in Puntland, an autonomous region of northern Somalia, fought off a large seaborne assault from al Shabab last March, killing 300 militants and capturing 100 fighters in the process. The same month, a U.S. airstrike killed more than 150 newly trained al Shabab combatants. A joint U.S.–Somali raid killed one of the organization’s senior members three days later.

But despite the recent victories against al Shabab, the group’s presence in Somalia has strengthened. Peacekeeping troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) had pushed the group from its major strongholds over the past five years, but their offensive has stalled. AMISOM still occasionally liberates areas from the group’s control, but is sometimes unable to hold onto them. Al Shabab, meanwhile, has managed to kill hundreds of AMISOM troops, and has overrun three

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